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also gets volume buys from suppliers,
with fewer SKUs and kitting operations.
And customers get a known interface on
new products, helping to trim operator
Tennant’s persistent focus on improving
its new product development agili-
ty drives significant benefits for the
company’s current competitiveness and
“Tennant continues to execute against one
of the most robust new product and tech-
nology pipelines in the company’s history,”
said Chris Killingstad, president and CEO
recently to investors. “Innovative products
and technologies are a significant driver
of the company’s revenue. Sales of new
products introduced since the 2012 fourth
quarter have risen steadily from 2 percent
of total equipment sales in the 2013 first
quarter to 10 percent in the 2014 second
quarter. This demonstrates the growing
momentum of new product sales as we
complete our launches and demand
accelerates ... In 2014, we expect to intro-
duce 16 new products — nine launched
in our first half, and will be followed by
seven in the second half. During the 2014
second quarter, we launched the second
product in our redesigned modular large
equipment portfolio — the T17, which is
our new mid-size rider scrubber. We are
manufacturing the majority of Tennant’s
new products on modular equipment
platforms, which allows us to offer a wider
range of possible machine features more
efficiently and cost effectively.”
“We always have customers in mind,”
Strom said about new product devel-
opment innovation. “For example, one
aspect of the clean sheet project was
to get more validation from customers
(voice of the customer) and more ma-
turity early in process. Our goal was to
try, fail fast and try again, engaging with
customers as quickly as possible.”
Marketing and research and develop-
ment have a close partnership. Con-
necting with customers, collecting data
in person and through virtual surveys
generates valuable information about
“We also work with customer expert
panels (bringing together representatives
from some of the top building service
contractor companies) to learn about
their businesses,” Strom said.
Fostering enterprise-wide continuous
improvement and innovation requires
constant attention and new patterns of
“Successful lean leaders are visible, on
the floor, focused on coaching and want
decisions made as close to the work be-
ing done as possible,” Reilly said. “This
is a different style for many traditional
leaders, particularly if you have moved
up through an organization based on
your ability to solve a crisis and respond
when things are difficult. It also requires
embracing different metrics.”
Making the transition from a manager or
supervisor to a coach can be difficult for
floor-level leaders and others.
“There are still daily metrics that need to
be accomplished, but the method for mak-
ing that happen is different,” Reilly said.
Tennant continues to seek better approach-
es for creatively and consistently achieving
higher performance levels. Lean and con-
tinuous improvement represent so much
more than reducing cost at the company.
“It’s about developing a culture so every-
one is thinking about positive change,”
Reilly said. “It’s about leveraging savings
to drive innovation. Lean isn’t about
reducing cost. It’s about laying a foun-
dation, an efficient process infrastructure
to drive and support growth. And that is
exactly what Tennant is doing.”
Tonkin is the owner of Lea Tonkin Communications
in Woodstock, Illinois.
Lean lessons learned
Although Mike Reilly, Tennant’s vice president
of global manufacturing, emphasizes the
need for progress on many fronts, he shared
suggestions for others starting or early in their
continuous improvement journey.
Quickly find and develop a sensei. “Having
someone charged solely with increasing
knowledge in a strictly coaching role acceler-
ates the learning curve,” Reilly said.
Require lean prowess to advance in the
Keep your focus areas consistent with
matching lean metrics versus a shotgun
approach chasing the latest issue.
Take a leap of faith, then do it again and again.
“Not all lean change feels intuitive,” according to
Reilly. “You need to make the commitment and go!”
Reinvest savings to increase the pace and
expand the knowledge.
Use a progressive, hands-on training approach
whenever possible versus “brain dump” training.
Start as close to the customer as possible
and work down your value chain.
Have visible, active leadership commitment
early and often throughout the process.
Equally focus on team engagement and
tools. You must bring your team along for
deep, long-lasting culture change.
Go to the place where the work is done to
discuss all changes.
Celebrate each learning event. Even if the change
was unsuccessful, you have a learning opportunity.
Let people go as a result of lean savings.
Approach change as anything short of cul-
tural change — no “programs of the month.”
Move forward at a faster pace than your peo-
ple. It can be frustrating as you see opportunities,
but without the team, changes tend not to stick.
Make change a single-function initiative.
Uncover positive opportunities across the
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