The Canadian Lean Conference

Wednesday, April 15, 2015
Paul Soubry is the honorary conference chair of the Canadian Lean Conference.

The organizers of the AME/CME 2015 Canadian Lean Conference June 1-4 in Winnipeg, Manitoba, were elated when Paul Soubry accepted their nomination as Honorary Conference Chair. Soubry is president and CEO of New Flyer Industries. He accepted the nomination with sincerity and enthusiasm, saying, “In 2009, New Flyer made a commitment to lean and a culture of continuous improvement, and I can honestly say it has fundamentally changed our company for the better. Both AME and CME played a role in providing tools, audits and access to lean companies and best-practice sharing.”

The conference is proud to have the leader of a 3,500-person lean company that exemplifies the spirit of lean throughout its operations. New Flyer continually draws excellence from AME and returns excellence by opening its doors at a time when collaboration, people-centric leadership, innovation, continuous improvement and adaptation are essential to take on competition, which can come from anywhere.

The company

New Flyer Industries was founded in 1930 in Winnipeg, Canada, where it continues to base its headquarters. Today, it is recognized as the leading North American transit bus manufacturer as measured by both market share and innovation. Its innovation includes building the first low-floor bus, the first diesel-electric bus, and now the world’s first zero-emission hydrogen fuel cell fleet. In Manitoba, Minnesota, Indiana and Alabama, it makes world-class transit buses and spare parts for vehicles ranging from 30 feet in length to the large 60-foot articulated buses. Its powertrains include clean diesel, electric hybrid, electric trolley, natural gas, hydrogen fuel cells and battery-electric.

New Flyer’s story is one of leadership and collaborative learning, always dedicated to lean and operational excellence, which accelerated in 2009 when Soubry joined the company as president and CEO.

Current manufacturing

Soubry reminds us that manufacturing has always had its ups and downs and always will. “Faster, better, cheaper will not let up. Our job is to outsmart our competition. I come from aerospace remanufacturing into manufacturing, and there is some shift in global competitiveness as off-shoring begins to return, but the reality of buying ‘anything from anyone anywhere’ is here to stay and will pressure us to invest in new computer-assisted technology as we determine the faster, better, cheaper demands of our customers.  And they will keep coming,” he said. 

It is Soubry’s belief that building good quality buses correctly is a given. But to win, New Flyer must define measures that reflect the requirement for total lifecycle optimization to drive the business. He said the winners of the future will be those who have optimized the lifecycle of all products whether they be two weeks or 20 years. This will require “systems thinking” like never before. “There’s no longer tolerance for those who remain complacent,” he said. 

“Because almost every tool, system and product we buy will have some kind of computerized automation, no one can avoid understanding computerization. We will need Gen Y’s familiarization with the technology, but we must participate in helping them see, touch and understand the context and systems in which these tools must excel. In other words, we have an obligation to help others understand the nature of our game by getting them down to ice level.”

Major leadership considerations

Soubry is clear on how companies will win. The reiteration of lean principles and the operational characteristics of sustainability must become part of the DNA of everyone. Every executive, at every level: Leaders can no longer just talk about it, or designate it to others. They must live it, and also be in the game at ice level.”

Soubry also said we do not gain the full value of lean unless it is understood and owned by the people. To bring everyone under the same tent rapidly, New Flyer and many other companies have adopted a designation for lean that encourages employees to buy in because it’s a sensible way to contribute to the value of the company. Even Toyota does not use lean. In its world, it is the “Thinking Production System.” In Eaton, it’s the “Eaton Production System.” In New Flyer, it’s “Op Ex.”

“Everyone knows it is ‘our Op Ex,’ and not someone else’s,” Paul added.

Soubry encourages everyone to attend the AME/CME Canadian Lean Conference in Winnipeg to learn how lean and innovation can help you and your company, grow and prosper.

“Come listen, learn, experience and share. Our people at New Flyer are looking forward to meeting you should you opt for our tour at the conference,” he said. 

Hogg is editor and producer of "Accelerating the Journey," the CME Lean ATJ eNewsletter.