Running lean

What is “lean”? According to the Lean Enterprise Institute (LEI), “The core idea is to maximize customer value while minimizing waste. Simply, lean means creating more value for customers with fewer resources.” The term “lean” was coined to describe Toyota’s business during the late 1980s by a research team headed by Jim Womack, Ph.D., at MIT’s International Motor Vehicle Program. Using lean manufacturing practices, Japanese car companies made up over 30% of the U.S. market by 2004; Toyota overtook Chrysler in world market share in 2001, and Ford in 2003.

These principles aren’t restricted to the automotive industry, however. In fact, the principle isn’t even limited to manufacturing. Lean applies in every business and every process. It is not a tactic or a cost reduction program, but a way of thinking and acting for an entire organization. Fibrebond was founded by Claud Walker in 1982. A businessman, Walker looked at the rapid growth of the wireless telecommunications industry and saw a need for strong, durable, aesthetic shelters to protect equipment. Fibrebond was created to build innovative and reliable products, manufacturing concrete, steel and hybrid structures for the telecommunications, power and institutional markets. In 2015, Fibrebond acquired International Supply Company (ISCO) in Edelstein, Ill. With more than 33 years in business, ISCO is a leader in engineering and manufacturing intelligent solutions for the power generation industry. Fibrebond and ISCO have taken the concept of lean manufacturing and improved upon it tremendously.

They’ve done it by concentrating on several main principles:

  • Reducing waste: including materials, scrap, time in process and labo
  • Ensuring quality and consistency: inspections are performed during each phase of production to ensure customer specifications are met
  • Rapid response: the ability to respond to changing customer desires with high variety, high quality and low cost
  • On-time delivery: superior quality product delivered on time and at best value

Let’s look at an example: concrete. Fibrebond uses concrete to create panels for its structures. Without a proper process in place, numerous problems can slow down manufacturing, lead to an inconsistent product, and increase labor costs. Fibrebond uses a sophisticated concrete casting system by SKAKO, an innovative manufacturer of concrete products out of Europe, to ensure a perfect result every time. Once concrete is mixed, it is transported to the casting bed via a CONFLEX bucket and poured in using an advanced SKAKO panel casting system. Then, bed-mounted vibration consolidates the mix to break free air and prevent voids on the bottom of the panel. Casting beds move to a storage elevator to cure for 18 hours. Most concrete mixes take 28 days.

Eliminating waste along entire processes, instead of at isolated points, creates systems that need less effort, less space, less capital and less time to make products at far less cost and with fewer defects. When it comes to lean manufacturing, Fibrebond continues to innovate. To learn more about our manufacturing process – including a step-by-step walkthrough – visit us on the web at