Navistar’s manufacturing team has been on a lean journey for more than five years. Much progress has been made and most recently the Springfield Assembly Plant has begun to implement lean operations such as job rotation to improve safety, quality and costs.

But what does implementing lean today really mean? It’s more than just eliminating waste says Mark Hernandez, senior VP, Global Manufacturing. We recently sat down with Mark and got his perspective on further implementing lean at Navistar’s plants and why it’s important for Navistar to operate under the five lean principles.

Navistar has been talking about lean manufacturing for several years, what’s different now?

As an organization it’s important that we keep evolving, especially as technology and data have made operations more effective. Our goal is to become more transparent in our operations to impact the bottom line and build more trucks. We’ve had some success at Navistar with topics such as Kaizen, value add vs non-value add and Andon, but we need to build a philosophy around our customer’s needs and set KPIs before we will see any results.

We are an organization driven by lowering costs, but eliminating waste is only a small part of lean. Lean, first and foremost, is about delivering customer value. I also want to note that we aren’t changing what we are doing in our plants. We are changing the way we think about it.

What are the key lean concepts that our employees should know about?

There are five basic lean principles, which all center around customer needs.

  1. Value: Everything we do should provide value to our customers. At Navistar, the value we bring is simple – we build quality units, on time, and at the lowest cost.
  2. Value Stream Mapping: This principle involves mapping out your workflow. In manufacturing, it’s our assembly lines. This big picture review of our lines allows us to see what is bringing value and what isn’t.
  3. Process Flow: On the assembly line, bottlenecks and interruptions can come up at any time. We need to determine what typically shuts it down and remove those roadblocks. A clear process flow can help teams overcome obstacles and complete their tasks quicker and safer.
  4. Pull: This principle is about doing the work, only if there is a demand for it. For us, every unit we deliver is what the customer wanted.
  5. Continuous Improvement: This is about always getting better. Always identifying what works, what obstacles we need to overcome, and updating the way we work.

Why is your team focused on further implementing lean?

The bottom line is that manufacturing in the U.S. is evolving, and Navistar also needs to evolve to meet our customer’s demands, be competitive in our industry and stay current with other manufacturers including those in the automobile industry. The more effective we make production, the more competitive we will be.