I came across this article about how the popular blender brand, Vitamix, started implementing a LEAN approach to their business. As the number of people starting to see the appeal in adopting healthier lifestyles increased, so did Vitamix’s growth. After year upon year of double digit growth and growing their workforce to meet demands, they felt that their workforce growth needed to also create a culture of continuous improvement. This was something they tried to do back in 2006, but were not comprehensive in their approach and instead was solely focused on meeting growing demand.
In 2012, they added a Continuous Improvement Manager to their team. One of their goals was to not just continue to hire more people to grow their workforce, but use their existing workforce more effectively. Part of Vitamix’s LEAN strategy is not focusing on cost as they feel it drives the wrong decision. Since Kaizen’s theory is focused on improvement, Eric DiMalanta (Lean Manager) says they want the focus to be on removing frustrations for their workers and to be inspired. Since adopting LEAN, the company holds dozens of Kaizen events and blitzes each year. It has been an added bonus to their culture and their employees see value and are engaged in the process. DiMalanta credits LEAN for the company’s 45% year over year growth since it’s implementation in 2013.
Value is a component of LEAN touched on in this article from our syllabus. This component is very valuable in any company especially one dealing with CPG (consumer packaged goods). The article says, “Value is specified by the customer. The series of activities that help create a product or service that a customer has value for, is called a Value Chain.” In the case of Vitamix, a broken flow in the chain may cause a variety of problems for the end user. This can be anything from problems in the manufacturing to failure to see the customer’s needs for the product. I believe using LEAN tools as an individual is helpful when gaining insight into the customer journey because it allows you to see things in a holistic way. You need to be able to envision the bigger picture before breaking it down and finding the root cause.
Pull is also an important component of the LEAN methodology when dealing with CPG. Pull is the idea that the company only takes action when there is a need. Example, since more people have been staying at home in 2020, Vitamix might have found an influx in sales with everyone cooking at home instead of going out to eat. This influx would signal a demand and cause Vitamix to produce more inventory than usual. Pull is the idea of only re-stocking when it is needed rather than having too much excess.
Lastly, I believe flow is third most important component of LEAN for Vitamix. As the article states, “In the optimum flow, work progresses across a process smoothly and swiftly. In manufacturing, this is not always easy, since different raw materials are processed by various machines, people and processes.” In Vitamix’s case, I am sure this is the same. There are many different processes, materials, and teams collaborating in order to make a single product. If all of these components are not working together, the entire flow is thrown off – ultimately likely costing the company time, money or dissatisfied customers. All in all, it seems that Vitamix did the right thing in choosing this management tool and also have the numbers to show for it.
Selko, Adrienne. “Vitamix’s Continuous Improvement Journey -IW Manufacturing & Technology Conference & Expo Preview.” Industry Week, 24 Mar. 2017, www.industryweek.com/manufacturing-technology-an-industryweek-event/article/22005415/vitamixs-continuous-improvement-journey-iw-manufacturing-technology-conference-expo-preview.
Vasisht, Prateek. “What Is LEAN Process Improvement?” Medium, The Lean Review, 13 Feb. 2021, medium.com/theleanreview/what-is-lean-process-improvement-d723ee5826a8.