Before I delve into this article, you may be wondering, “Where did Jim Lewis go? And who is this Brad guy?”
After 26 years of faithful service
as Lean Guru to the woodworking in-
dustry, Jim Lewis has officially retired.
He’ll now be spending a lot more time
with his wife and on the golf course.
Over the past 17 years, Jim’s work with
this magazine has inspired many to
take action on their lean journey. Jim
has kicked off lean transformations at
companies that have become successful
beyond all their expectations. Speaking for anyone who has learned from
Jim or enjoyed his articles, we wish him
the best in his retirement. We will miss
his words of wisdom and the passion he
brought to the woodworking industry. A new chapter has begun for Jim,
and as one door closes, another door
opens. That’s where I come in.
My own lean journey
It all started for me about 15 years ago.
I had just discovered on-line auctions
and was filling my shop with used
equipment. On that particular day
I won a bid for an edge sander from
1930 (which I still have) and a Raymond reach fork truck (which I later
regretted ever having).
Like most of us cabinetmakers, I
was determined to save a few bucks, so
I elected to pick them up myself. This
venture was going to be a 7-hour drive
each way. I didn’t relish the thought of
being stuck in the truck for 14 hours by
myself, so I asked everyone I knew to
join me. I got one taker—my mother.
Now I had another challenge: I didn’t
want to be stuck in the truck for 14
hours with my mom either!
My conundrum led me to the bookstore. I was looking for something on a
tape or CD that would keep us entertained. I ended up with a set of CDs
from the business section titled “The
Toyota Way” by Jeffry K. Liker.
We kicked off this journey armed
with Toyota CDs and a big bag of fresh
cherries (Noteworthy: if you’re on a
long car ride with anyone, don’t eat
a giant bag of cherries, just saying.) I
popped the CDs into the stereo of my
1997 freightliner and we were off. We
were 30 minutes into the first CD when
I realized this wasn’t just going to be
entertainment for the drive, this was a
But not so fast…
After 14 hours of solid TPS (Toyota
Production System) playing on the stereo (yes, I played them over, and over…
and over), I arrived back at work in
such a feverish pitch I could barely contain myself. I immediately put together
a presentation for my staff about what
I had learned. I told everyone that this
is how we were going to do business
and if you didn’t like it, jump ship now
because there will be no turning back.
I spent the next seven years studying
everything I could find on the subject
of lean manufacturing and struggling.
Yup, you heard it right, I was struggling. How could this be? I was armed
with all this knowledge, the factory was
by Brad Cairns
email@example.com LEAN JOURNEYS
Lean is alive!
Taking up the torch to help you on your lean journey.
See more at the
See more columns at
; Want more? Read archived Jim Lewis columns at
Brad Cairns is the senior principal at The Center for Lean
Learning as well as running a woodworking business called
Best Damn Doors in St. Thomas, Ontario, Canada, where
he puts lean thinking into action every day. You can reach
Brad at 519-494-2883 or firstname.lastname@example.org.