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The secrets of a shop that just does it, right!

Recently, Lynn and I had the pleasure of going back to work with a long time
customer for another week. The success of this company is absolutely nothing
short of staggering. The company I’m talking about is Hunter trim and cabinet
Co. of Fort Worth Texas and the man in charge is Dustin Hunter.
From the moment you walk in the door, you know somethings different about this
company. And Im not just talking about their brand new state of the art
manufacturing facility that looks more like a fortune 500 company building than a
woodworking shop. However, if you hang around for the first hour of the day, all
your suspicions about something being different will be confirmed. For a
company who is in such high demand with work, booked out into the foreseeable
future, you will not see anyone running around with their hair on fire. As a matter
of fact, it’s quite the opposite. As the day gets underway, there is a serene
calmness throughout the whole building. A 7 o’clock buzzer rings, and everyone
gathers in the sandbox (meeting area) for group stretches. Once everyone has
limbered up the entire team gets 30 minutes of improvement time they can work
on anything that falls into the improvement trident of Safety, quality or simplicity.
With one walk-through the factory it’s obvious they’ve been doing this for a while.
After improvement time is over, the entire team gets together again for the
morning meeting. I would say if you’re ever in the Fort Worth area, you should
stop in and witness this morning meeting, but instead, I will tell you flat out, I
don’t care where you are! It will be worth every penny to get on an airplane and
witness this morning routine for yourself. It’s that good.
They conduct their meeting in both English and Spanish. They have 20 or so
company fundamentals and they discuss one for an entire week at each morning
meeting. While we were there, the fundamental being discussed was “Be
positive”. And the conversation and engagement around that simple fundamental
was nothing short of mind blowing. We were there for an entire week and there
wasn’t one morning meeting that didn’t give me goosebumps.
Everybody in the company seem to know the goal of the company, the goal of their
department, the 5S’s  the ‘8 Deadly Wastes’.
They watched both inspirational videos and educational
videos. Then they broke off into two smaller groups
everyone who worked on the factory floor and the
installation team. After about an hour, the buzzer
would ring again, and everyone would finally go to
work. I can’t emphasize enough the absence of stress.
Then the magic really happens. Dustin‘s production is set up in a line, each
cabinet is started by the first person in the line and finished by the last person in
the line as the product flows down. All supporting components face frames
drawers and doors are made in work cells right beside the line and those parts
are ready just in time as the cabinet flows past. Right now you’re thinking “well I
can’t do that because I’m custom”. I hate to burst your bubble, but Hunter Trim and
Cabinets is a fully high-end custom cabinet shop. No two parts are the same. Head
over to YouTube and you can check out our video and see this in action for
I think it’s safe to say most companies have a buzzer go off in the morning and
everyone gets to work, then the buzzer goes off at the end of the day and everyone goes home.
Generally speaking inside of those eight hours we’re all
doing our best, trying to do our jobs and improve the company. Consider this: if
there are two companies;
Company A which gets to work right away for the full eight hours.
And Company B which does not work for the first hour of every day.
Would you not think that company “A” should
outperform company “B”? Should they not get more
work done?
Logic would say yes. But I would challenge any of us to compare our statistics to that
of Hunter Trim and Cabinets Dustin has taken his company from $600,000 a year to
6 million with the same number of people on the shop floor. Yes you just read that right,
that is not a typo. Of course he has had to add some support staff along the way, but by
any conceivable measurement, this is unbelievable.  If I didn’t see it myself, I probably wouldn’t
believe it either. Dustin started his lean journey with our Quantum Lean founder Jim Lewis over
12 years ago so we have had the pleasure of being on the sidelines watching Dustin take his company and
his team to places no one could’ve imagined.
Of course, everyone wants the magic bullet. What’s that one thing that I can do,
and I asked Dustin what’s his secret? He simply replied, we just do the basics at a really, really high level.
And he puts his money where his mouth is. He has developed his team into
some of the best lean thinkers we’ve ever seen, and where we brought in to do a
module on advanced planning and scheduling? No. He put his entire team
through our “ basics of lean manufacturing” training.
Next I asked, what advice would you give to someone wanting to go down this
road? And yet again the simple but profound advise rang true. He said it’s a long
game, don’t give up, and no matter what you can’t be in a hurry.
I think that we could all benefit from that advice, when we get on YouTube and
watch amazing factories in action, naturally, we want that for ourself. We try and
get our team from zero to hero in a month, but we forget that company has
probably been at it for 10, 20, 30 or in the case of Toyota 100 years, so we
should probably cut ourselves some slack.
Having a wonderful lean company is
probably analogous to getting our body in shape. If we only diet or work out for a
month, probably nothings gonna happen, but if every day you commit to eating
well and some exercise it is 100% guaranteed that you will get results. The part
we struggle with is we just don’t know when. Could be a year could be five could
be 10 everyone’s different, and so are our companies.
So put more emphasis on doing what you know is right, and let the results come
when they come. If you’re making some level of daily improvement, it’s only a
matter of time until that compounds enough too manifest into an amazing team,
and then as a byproduct the money should show up in your bank account.
Oh yeah and don’t forget, nothing worth having comes easy. Nose to the grind stone, let’s change the world.
Quantum Lean