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Zoning In with Robert Johnson

Acumed appointed Robert Johnson as president in September 2013. BONEZONE spoke to him about manufacturing improvements and his new leadership role.

BONEZONE: While you served as Vice President of Operations and New Product Development, Acumed was recognized for operational excellence. How did Acumed improve its manufacturing and operations processes? What advice do you have on maintaining continual improvement?

Robert Johnson: We were honored to be a recipient of both the AME and ML100 award, but the result of improvement within any organization needs to be more than a finished project or an award. Improvement must be measureable, and it must improve the performance of the business. At Acumed, over the past five years, we’ve drastically cut our lead times, our delivery variability and cost. However, we are most proud of our improvements in quality. We established and maintained a culture throughout our operations team that delivers consistent, incremental improvement through collaboration and personal ownership. The steps to achieve this are simple to outline, but can be challenging to implement:

  1. Be a leader who demands excellence from your team after you are demonstrating it yourself.
  2. Determine what matters in your business and decide how to measure it.
  3. Set numeric, time based goals that establish what success means in those areas, and assign owners.
  4. Help those owners to build and engage small teams of employees who care, and are directly involved in the process of achieving those metrics.
  5. Challenge the leaders and teams to do things they don’t think are possible.
  6. Support their efforts by eliminating obstacles, providing clear direction and encouragement.
  7. Hold them accountable for the results, good or bad, in a consistent and fair way.

It was important to have a clear vision of what success would look like, such as driving lead-time to an X-theoretical target, and then engaging the entire operations workforce to work on improvement projects, small and large, that would have immediate and sustained results. Sharing the success for any project that moved us forward was an important way to make everyone feel good about how they contributed. Be systematic.

BONEZONE: What are you most looking forward to in your new role as president?

Johnson: I enjoy the process of building and being a part of a great team, and challenging us as a group to exceed expectations. I like to be challenged and to deliver exceptional results in innovative ways. We are fortunate because Acumed is a company with great people doing outstanding work that we enjoy being a part of. As president, I have the opportunity to do these things on a much larger scale and spread the Lean implementation to all areas of the business. That engages me, and I’m excited to see the great results we’re poised to deliver.

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