Blue Bell Creamery: The Antithesis of Lean

Rick Bohan

Next time you hear someone say or imply that lean is about cost cutting, show them this article:

“Former Blue Bell workers describe dirty, unsafe conditions at Brenham ice cream plant”

It’s not an article about lean, for or against.  It doesn’t even mention lean methods or tools.  But all of us know that there is a wide, wide gap between the procedures and practices at this plant and even rudimentary lean practice.  A company committed to lean approaches just doesn’t let these sorts of things happen, good times or bad.

I’ve written and spoken a number of times regarding what I feel is the biggest impediment to lean implementations, “manufacturing heroics”.  This article vividly reports on the injury “manufacturing heroics” does to employees and to the organization as a whole.

When Blue Bell added capacity by working present resources to the max and cutting corners to get product out the door (no matter that the product made people sick), it was managing operations in a manner directly opposite to anything resembling lean protocols.


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