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42 DESIGN007 MAGAZINE I APRIL 2022 risk of transmission. is enhanced attempt to eliminate waste helped us become more profitable, improved employee productivity, and removed unease about COVID risk in the workplace. Adherence to Lean Practices Makes the Difference At the outset of the pandemic, we didn't really have a grand plan to reinvigorate all five Lean manufacturing principles. We just knew we had to adapt to the drastically changed operating environment. Focused on customer satisfaction and employee safety, we took what we were already doing and amplified it to meet each new challenge COVID brought with it. ere was no formal decree about using Lean philosophy to respond, but with the benefit of hindsight, it was clear that was exactly what we did. Like muscle memory that results from persistent training, we relied on our experi- ence with Lean throughout. Even if our efforts to deal with COVID didn't always result in a classic Lean project or structured application of its principles, Sunstone's adherence to Lean manufacturing got us through the hardest times and put us on a path to come out stron- ger than when we went in. Now, two years aer the initial shutdown, we have maintained operations, kept all our employees healthy and employed, continued to satisfy our customer needs, and reacted quickly to environmental changes. Dedicated Leadership Lights the Way None of that would have happened with- out dedicated leadership across the organi- zational chart. Success with Lean has always required executive management commitment to the core principles. When COVID hit, that commitment was front and center, and com- municated throughout the organization. We set expectations appropriately at every level, and recognized small, early victories to build momentum that would take us through the worst of the pandemic. at momentum was sustained by clear, two-way communication throughout the orga- nization. e great ideas for process improve- ment and safety enhancement come from the personnel doing the work each day. By keep- ing the channels of communication wide open, company leadership was ready to hear about opportunities to effect change. Even with normalcy closer on the horizon, the competitive landscape of the PCB industry may be permanent. If last year taught us noth- ing, it was that economic disruption can come from anywhere. We can't predict what the next challenge will be, but we can be as prepared as possible before it arises. Lean offers a path to readiness, one that considers value for the cus- tomer and safety for the employee. By making Lean decisions on everything from equipment type to production floor layout in the midst of a crisis, we found ways to improve process we had never even considered in the past. DESIGN007 Matt Stevenson is the VP of sales and marketing at Sunstone Circuits. To read past columns or contact Stevenson, click here.

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