I recently had the pleasure of working with Blue Q Corporation to establish their first ever in-house training program with funds from the Massachusetts Workforce Training Fund. The WTF is managed through Commonwealth Corporation and supports workforce development among Massachusetts businesses. Any business that has employee training needs should consider applying for a grant from this fund. Blue Q is a manufacturer of gift items that are sold worldwide. The company, which employs approximately 45 people, has achieved widespread popularity by offering high quality products that are whimsical, fun and affordable. Just a few examples of their creations are Marie Antoilette Lavatory Mist, I Have Mood Swing Socks, and Get Along with Your CoWorkers Chewing Gum.
The idea for Blue Q to GO LEAN was brought forth by Sergio Bencivenga, Manager of Warehousing and Purchasing. Sergio knew of a company in Connecticut that had achieved great results from implementing a LEAN training program offered by Leanovations. Sergio explored this as an option for Blue Q, one thing led to another, and last summer he and I found ourselves together at Blue Q’s production warehouse crafting a successful training grant proposal that involves every employee at the company.
The premise of LEAN, based on the Japanese Kaizen philosophy, is that productivity will increase only when an organization eliminates waste activities through team building that engages and empowers employees to work toward continuous improvement. By introducing LEAN training, Blue Q hoped to increase its capacity to handle a high volume of orders and serve large customers.
So far, Leanovations has spent one week at Blue Q working with the production staff. They will come back throughout the year to work with teams of staff throughout the company. The results so far have surpassed everyone’s expectations.
According to Sergio, “The first week of LEAN at Blue Q was a smashing success. We all went into it having no idea of what to expect. By the end of the week we were in awe of what we had accomplished. A team of six people had completely dismantled, dissected and rebuilt our entire picking and packing process in four days! We managed to squeeze a minimum of 30% more efficiency out of our shipping system by using the people and resources we already had.”
So the takeaways of this happy story are:
1) Grants are not just for nonprofit organizations. Companies can get grants too.
2) Going LEAN is a good thing. Even if you think you are already productive, there is room for improvement.
3) The Workforce Training Fund is a great resource for Massachusetts employers. The grants stimulate the economy, helping companies to increase productivity and giving employees an opportunity to grow in their jobs.