The country and even the world are headed for some lean times.
Lean, however, when discussed at the Jon M. Huntsman School of Business has nothing to do with a recession. The lean philosophy is something promoted by an organization within the Huntsman School of Business called The Shingo Prize for Operational Excellence.
The lean philosophy emphasizes the principle of respect for the individual which encourages companies to invest in people and partners. Those who embrace lean principles look to involve their own people and external partners to systematically eliminate waste, which is anything that doesn't add value from the customer's perspective. The approach significantly improves quality, cost and delivery and makes companies more competitive.
Shigeo Shingo, an industrial engineer in Japan, originally articulated the lean philosophy that has been key to Toyota's success. In 1988, he came to Utah State University and was recognized with an honorary doctorate in business. The Shingo Prize organization was created not long after that visit.
Last year the organization changed its name from "The Shingo Prize for Excellence in Manufacturing" to "The Shingo Prize for Operational Excellence." Bob Miller, the executive director of the Shingo Prize, said the name change was just a first step in the organization's plans to expand its scope and reach.
The Shingo Prize organization now has a Northwest and a Northeast region in the United States. It also has two regions in Mexico, Miller said. It is negotiating to organize Shingo Prize regions in Canada, England and Australia, Miller said.
Regional organizations are independent non-profits that work under the direction of the Shingo Prize at USU and pay for the rights to use the Shingo name.
Miller said there are companies based in Latin America, India, China and Korea that are also interested in the Shingo Prize. He expects to set up regions in six more countries in the next two years.
While the prize is marketed mainly to the manufacturing sector, the organization plans to begin promoting it to the health care industry, Miller said.
Companies and organizations apply each year to receive the Shingo Prize but only a handful qualifies for the prestigious honor that has been called the "Nobel Prize of manufacturing."
The Shingo Prize, which holds a public sector and a business sector convention each year, has made some changes to the names of the awards it offers. Now only those organizations that qualify at the top level can get the "Shingo Prize." They can still qualify for what is called a Shingo Bronze Medallion or a Shingo Silver Medallion but the Shingo Prize is reserved for only the very best companies, Miller said.
The Shingo Prize is ensuring the integrity of the award is preserved by making sure any organization, no matter where it is based, is held to the same high standards.
"We want to make sure companies that earn the Shingo Prize understand lean principles and that they are imbedded deeply in the company culture," Miller said. "We have raised the bar."
The Shingo Prize is now developing educational materials that can be offered to businesses that want the training through on or off-site seminars, or over the web, Miller said.
The 20th Annual Shingo Prize Conference for the business sector was held in Dallas March 31 to April 3. At that annual meeting it recognized the two people who founded the organization, Vern Buehler and Norman Bodek, by inducting them into the Shingo Academy. It also inducted Ross Robson into the Shingo Academy, Miller said. Robson, who will be retiring in August of 2008, led the organization for 18 of its 20 years.