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September 07 Businessexcellence 27 fi ve units he can be working on. If the full order is 25 units and you send a container from each supplier, they can’t do anything until they get the last one.” It’s another great idea, but how well did it go down in the marketplace? “I sold the concept once,” laughs Kenna. “It’s a very hard sell because they are used to doing things one way, and you’re dealing with different cultures and different languages.” When I spoke to Kenna last year, KUDU was working on due diligence before buying a service company in Russia. By coincidence, one of its Russian customers got into single piece fl ow by accident. “They went to single piece fl ow because their engineers were restricted on how much they could sign POs for,” he says, “so they produced lots of little POs, which actually got the parts there faster.” Lean has been around for a long time, even in North America, but there is a sizeable population of business people who are not yet into it. “It’s so busy in our industry right now,” says Kenna, “that people are recognizing that lean is good, but they are too busy to do it. This whole Province is going crazy, there’s so much work here right now.” It’s ironic, really, that people are running around like headless chickens, too busy to do lean, while KUDU is too busy not to. The difference is that KUDU is already committed to it, of course, while anyone who has not started yet must look at lean as a daunting, time consuming project. “My belief is that it’s short term pain for long term gain,” says Kenna. “It’ll be painful but you’ve got to do it. If we didn’t continue doing it, we would . . .” his voice tails off, unable to contemplate the dreadful consequences. A recent initiative aimed at the supply chain is the introduction of a lean purchasing manager. Then KUDU hosted an all vendor forum, instead of the manager visiting each supplier separately. “We had a presentation on where we’re going, what our customers’ expectations are of us and how that impacts our expectations of our suppliers, in terms of pricing, delivery, and quality. I also did a presentation on lean and we had quite a good response from that. We got some price breaks, they’re delivering better already, and a few people have called back and asked for more instruction on lean.” Another change was a massive reorganization of the shop fl oor to create extra space. “We moved our bottleneck, which was in our painting booths, where we used to run two shifts. Now we’re running about half a shift, and we’re still getting stuff out on time.” Note Kenna’s choice of words here. Bottlenecks don’t simply disappear. They tend to move somewhere else. Having solved a problem in the paint area, there’s now a bottleneck in shipping. A lean guru I interviewed some years ago used the analogy of boulders in the river, impeding one’s progress. You remove the boulders and the water level drops, revealing more rocks somewhere else. “That’s exactly what we are fi nding,” says Kenna. “The fi rst time I talked to you we had made huge improvements. Now the boulders are smaller, and in different areas.” KUDU’s sales are almost eight times what they were when the lean program began, yet the factory has been extended by only 20 percent, if that, and additional processes have also been brought in-house. “Lean has got us where we are, but we’re actually running out of space now,” says Kenna. “We have to continue to utilize our space better.” Space is a big problem in Calgary, so further factory extensions are out of the question. “There is no more space to rent. You can’t go down the street and rent a warehouse and move some of your processes there. There’s nothing for sale, nothing for lease. You can’t build anything either because there aren’t enough construction workers. Growth in Calgary and Alberta in general is outpacing the whole country.” Offi cial fi gures confi rm Kenna’s impression. In 2006, Calgary had the lowest unemployment rate of major cities in Canada, and was the most expensive for commercial/ downtown offi ce space. Growth is what every business strives for, but it brings its own challenges. “The main thing for us in managing growth is to get our suppliers online, and we’ve started that,” concludes Kenna. “The second thing is training new employees in our principles through the KUDU College, and that has also begun.” The next challenge is squeezing a quart into a pint pot. We’ll be sure to check in with Matt Kenna in the future, to see how they managed that. KUDU Industries