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Tackling Lean during COVID-19 with Nate Barber

2 minutes, 12 seconds read

This week, lean consultant Nate Barber brings 18+ years of experience to the Lean Frontline Podcast to talk about how lean and culture is more important than ever during an unprecedented pandemic.

Nate Barber is the founding partner and CEO of Opgrade LLC, a San Antonio based improvement firm consultant that specializes in continuous improvement and transactional lean/six sigma. Barber earned his BSE in both Chemical Engineering and Mechanical Engineering from the University of Michigan as well as an MBA in Administration and Finance from the University of Texas. With experience in both lean consulting and process engineering, Barber believes that they key to  delivering exceptional business is  fostering a culture of continuous improvement. Barber’s ideology as a lean consultant is simple: succeed daily and achieve together. 

In this episode of the Lean Frontline Podcast, Barber highlights the importance of investing time and energy to make small improvements to achieve maximum efficiency. “Lean is spending 10 minutes today to make tomorrow one minute better. And if we make tomorrow one minute better, sure, we’re investing more time over the next 10 days. But after those 10 days, we’re actually gaining time and are actually able to implement more improvement as we improve ourselves.” Small changes require time and resources to fix and improve, but the lean efficiency gained as a result is valuable and worth the investment. 

With conversations about automation and robotics dominating the manufacturing world, Barber that people are still vital to the manufacturing process. “Automation requires really, really, really standardised processes. And we say first standardize, then simplify, then automate. And if you don’t have people standardizing your processes so that they can be simplified and improved, you’re going to automate a mess.” 

Although automation provides solutions to increase productivity, people are needed to simplify complex processes and solve problems with creativity. Barber also provides insight on approaching lean improvement during these recent unprecedented times. “It’s always the case that the better companies are the ones that use these times to improve. Instead of sending everybody home, they redouble their efforts to fix the things they should’ve been fixing all along.”

 Continuous improvement requires constant effort to find new solutions. With a halt on production and operations due to Covid-19, now is the time to find new ways to improve and come out of everything with new and efficient lean systems and practices. 

Check out more interviews from Norman Bodek, Paul Akers, and other lean legends and consultants at The Lean Frontline.

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