KeyLeaf’s LEAN Certification – What It Means

Commentary from Darryl Minty, KeyLeaf’s Director of Global Business Process


Last year, after years of hard work, dedication, and continuous improvement, KeyLeaf was awarded LEAN Certification by Canadian Manufacturers & Exporters (CME), becoming one of only three companies in Saskatchewan to achieve that distinction.

KeyLeaf started on its LEAN Certification program in 2014 as part of a complete business transformation focusing on continuous improvement and customer value.  Lean production is founded on the idea of kaizen – or continual improvement. This philosophy implies that small, incremental changes routinely applied and sustained over a long period result in significant improvements. The kaizen strategy aims to involve workers from multiple functions and levels in the organization to work together to address a problem or improve a process. The team uses analytical techniques to identify opportunities to eliminate waste in a targeted process or production area. The team then rapidly works to implement chosen improvements, often within 72 hours of initiating the kaizen event, typically focusing on solutions that do not involve large capital outlays. 1


Darryl Minty, KeyLeaf’s Director of Global Business Process, comments on how KeyLeaf became involved with the LEAN Certification program and how the company has benefited from the LEAN production principles:


KeyLeaf has been on our LEAN journey for about a decade.  When we started our journey, we hired a consultant to do an assessment.  After spending a few days with us, he gave us his report.  Two of his comments were: ‘I wouldn’t want to work here’, and ‘I wouldn’t want to do business with you.’ That was a kick in the pants that told us maybe we need to take a hard look at what we’re doing and how we were doing it. Around the same time, we started working with Canadian Manufacturers and Exporters. They have divisions across Canada, and we became a member with CME Saskatchewan. CME was there to help coach us and mentor us as opposed to just tell us what to do. One of the key elements we took away from them was our LEAN training. 


Currently, we have almost 100 percent of our staff on-site trained at the LEAN 101 level, which consists of a one-day introductory session giving a basic understanding of the LEAN tools and methodology.  At KeyLeaf we teach and use the traditional LEAN process which is basically an adaptation of the Toyota Production System, which is where many of the LEAN principles came from.


Above the LEAN 101 level, KeyLeaf has 12 employees trained at the Yellow Belt level, where they receive instruction on all 24 of the LEAN Tools and Methodologies.  Above yellow we have eight employees trained at the Green Belt Level, where they learn to become “senseis” qualified to instruct and mentor other employees on the LEAN program.  Above Green Belt, we have two employees trained at the Black Belt level, which uses advanced tools and methodologies focusing more on systems and less on processes. We also have one Master Black Belt on site.


As part of Black Belt training, we do a one-week benchmarking mission to Japan where we visit best-in-class companies: Toyota, Mitsubishi, Nissan and Yamaha for example. In order to be “world-class” its beneficial to go and see first-hand what world-class looks like. World-class examples of lean are literally evident everywhere you go in Japan from airports, “the bullet train” to grocery stores. Aside from seeing world-class companies you experience the Japanese culture which is the epitome of respect. 


There are many internal improvements we can point to resulting from LEAN.  One of which is we’ve created a much safer and more efficient work environment; we have far better and safer ergonomics. People are less frustrated because they’re not running around looking for the right tools and materials. Things are where they need to be when they need them.


Secondly, we have a much more responsive, adaptive and agile workforce. There were many instances where we never knew what the customer was going to walk through the door nor what project they were going to throw at us. LEAN taught us a lot about how to break down a process and focus on what offered true customer value in doing so offer a much better customer experience.


The LEAN methodology has helped us create a much more usable workspace and facility. Where, in our labs and shop and virtually everywhere you looked, we once had clutter and unneeded items, we now have clean, productive spaces.  We have what we need where we need it and when we need it.


We’ve also created a culture where people have been empowered to become brilliant problem solvers — problem solvers capable of much more than merely identifying the problem.  They can break it down to understand the root cause and apply suitable controls, so we eliminate the problem altogether.


Once you become LEAN certified as an organization, it’s really the best way of doing business.  We don’t have to spend a whole lot of time thinking about what do and how to do it — it’s ingrained.  If you went to Toyota and asked them about their LEAN program, they would not know what you were talking about. It’s just the way they do business. Eliminate waste while continually trying to add value to the customer. They’re there to do their jobs, but they’re also there to think and improve things on an ongoing basis.  And that’s what we try to do. Just be better today than we were yesterday!