Lean leadership Featured

8:00pm EDT June 25, 2007

When Dan Ariens assumed the role of president of the Ariens Co., the outdoor power equipment industry was beginning to undergo significant changes due to pressures related to competition from China. Eight years later, Ariens’ biggest challenge is that the industry supply chain is moving to China.

U.S. engine manufacturers are building new plants in China while more than 130 different small engine manufacturers are currently operating there. Coupled with a significant level of investment in that country, labor capacity and an aggressive drive toward a free-market system, Ariens Co. must continually find more efficient ways to do business.

To ensure the financial future of the company, Ariens introduced the company to the principles of lean manufacturing beginning with lean training in 1998. Today, through the leadership of the executive team and contribution of all employees, Ariens’ production system is based on lean manufacturing principles.

As a result, the company has experienced a 15 percent productivity gain since 1999. Current inventory on hand has been reduced from 83 days to 20 days, and product delivery lead time is two hours, down from five weeks in 2000.

Using lean principles, employees redesigned the spindle fabricating process into a one-piece flow cell, allowing the company to produce the spindle for less than those made in China.

Product development taps into the lean business model for a clear and sustained capacity for creativity and innovation in the development of new products with input from employees at every level.

HOW TO REACH: Ariens Co., www.ariens.com or (920) 756-2141