Shared Commitment Through Consortia

Monday, December 12, 2011

ONLINE EXCLUSIVE: Shared Commitment Through Consortia

Lea Tonkin, editor in chief

Keith Syberg    

Participating in regional consortia offers shared learning across many enterprises. That’s the view of Sam Matsumoto, director of the Association for Manufacturing Excellence (AME) Northern Kentucky and Greater Cincinnati AME Consortium for Business Excellence. “There are so many things going on in the development of an enterprise,” he said. “Through a consortium, you start to build a shared commitment for sharing and learning.” AME has one charter consortium and three affiliate consortia, with plans to add groups in the next year.

Matsumoto noted that each AME consortium welcomes manufacturers (non-competing with other members) as well as representatives from other fields such as service and healthcare. “Our 15 member companies include pizza and candy manufacturers, automotive and aerospace operations, investment, warehouse and distribution, and others,” Matsumoto said.

Consortium members gain more than they give in a local consortium, according to David Bird, lean champion. A member of the Northern Kentucky and Greater Cincinnati AME Consortium, he has visited other plants and invited employees from area companies to the Messier-Bugatti-Dowty plant in benchmarking and learning activities. Bird said leadership freely shares “lessons learned” with top executives and others from neighboring organizations, since no direct competitors participate in the local consortium. “Through consortium events, you start to form local networks with companies just up the street,” he said.

Trading notes with fellow lean coordinators in the Northern Kentucky consortium builds new understanding and support, said Scott Smith, Quality, Perfetti Van Melle. “It helps to think about what others are experiencing and to bring best practices back,” he said. Hosting visitors from various companies “gives our employees great feedback,” Smith added. “We go to other companies to learn from them about their improvements. It’s a low-cost way to gain new resources.”

“It’s like having an AME conference 365 days a year,” said Keith Syberg, AME vice president of consortia. “This is hands-on practitioner work that is hard to accomplish in any other way.”

Meeting with “neighbors” month after month creates a greater level of intimacy, Syberg continued. He added that learning crossovers from one industry to another can be surprising — process industry personnel sharing ideas with metal parts machining technicians, for example.

Another benefit from joining a consortium: A northern Kentucky consortium member facility was bought by a competitor and then closed by the new owner. Consortium members organized a job fair at the affected plant. Several people landed new jobs during the event.

When another northern Kentucky member company held a “red tag” clean-out event, its leadership invited fellow consortium members to take unneeded materials and equipment. The company’s “waste” materials were carted away, eliminating hauling/disposal fees. And one company picked up $14,000 worth of needed test equipment.