Home' AME : AME Target Summer 2017 Contents FOLLOW A LEADER
By Laura Vernaci
Joe Fisher, MBA
President, JR Fisher Consulting Inc., Ontario, Canada
oe Fisher had a unique start to
his admirable career. His first
job at Westinghouse was driv-
ing a forklift, even though he
didn’t hold a driver’s license
at the time. From there, he
became an hourly laborer, working in the
paint area of the plant’s assembly line.
Although Fisher had no initial aspirations
of forging a career in manufacturing, he
continued to rise within the company. He
became an industrial engineer, master
scheduler, marketing manager, product
manager, plant manager and, finally,
operational excellence manager. Fisher
spent his entire 45-year career at West-
inghouse, even when Eaton acquired his
organization in 1994.
Along his journey, Fisher earned degrees
in industrial engineering and economics,
as well as an MBA. Later in his voca-
tion, he spent a lot of time traveling
— designing and opening new plants and
implementing process improvements.
Fisher has held a variety of roles within
AME, including president of the Canadian
Region, member of the national board of
directors, chair of Audit and Governance,
chair of two international and seven
regional conferences, and member of the
Conference Support Team.
Target magazine had the opportunity
to learn more about Fisher’s accom-
plishments and garner advice for those
following in his footsteps.
What is something inspirational
you’ve learned on your lean journey?
In my capacity as plant manager and oper-
ational excellence manager, I learned that
the folks doing the work were the experts,
and if I could engage them, then I could be
successful in making the kinds of produc-
tivity improvements that were needed. Lean
provides a structure to do this, and I was
able to deploy lean in plants and offices
across the globe. I also learned that I really
didn’t know that much about the processes
I was trying to improve. This humility served
me well in getting others engaged in contin-
What lean concepts do you feel
can be the most difficult to grasp?
The first is that we have sold lean as a
methodology to reduce waste in manu-
facturing. However, the principles of lean
are applicable in health care, government,
banking and process industries — any
trade that employs people. As such, the
deployment of lean has lagged outside of
manufacturing, and I believe we’ve missed
an unbelievable opportunity to improve all
businesses using lean practices.
The second area is that lean is com-
monly perceived as a cost-reduction or
people-reduction process. This is really
short-term thinking. Until we view lean
as a value-creation process, we will not
optimize its true potential.
What has your tenured involve-
ment with AME meant to you?
I have a passion to keep middle-class
manufacturing jobs in North America. I
have traveled to a lot of countries that
have very small middle classes and I do
not want the United States or Canada to
become like them. Lean principles help
companies become more competitive
and sustain employment.
What is your most memorable
experience over your 15 years as
an AME member and volunteer?
One of the regional conferences that I
chaired was a bust. While it was still a
great learning experience, we did not
have the attendance that we needed.
I think I learned more from this bad
experience than I did from the other
successful conferences that I chaired.
When I retired last year, one of my goals
was to volunteer even more with AME to
help it achieve its mission and maintain
my own skills.
Why and how would you encour-
age others to get involved with
their AME region?
One thing I got from AME was network-
ing. I have AME friends in pretty much
every U.S. state and Canadian province.
I have been to the U.K. and Austra-
lia and have reached out to the AME
groups there. I can call on these folks
professionally and visit them personally.
I have planned events, shared meals
and vacationed with the people I’ve met
On a practical level, I have had the oppor-
tunity to visit countless facilities and learn
what they have accomplished with lean,
which enhanced my professional profi-
ciencies. The best way to get involved
with AME is first to join as a member, and
second to volunteer to be on your local
AME regional board. Once you’ve done
this, you can extend your volunteering to
Laura Vernaci is a writer/editor for Ascend Media.
SUMMER 2017 TARGET 47
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