Leveraging LEAN in the Laboratory

Torque/Force After 5S
Torque/Force After 5S

By Dean S. Williams

What do you do when faced with a doubling of demand with virtually no increase in resources? Go LEAN. That was the approach Duke Energy’s Standards Lab took when it faced that situation recently. As a result of a merger with Progress Energy, which formed the largest investor owned electric utility in the U.S., the Duke Energy Standards Lab’s customer base immediately doubled; but the staffing only increased by 10%. The merger and other cost cutting measures were a direct result of the changing landscape for electric utilities. As a result of the recent recession, the demand for electricity dropped and is only projected to grow minimally over the next 4 to 5 years. This fact, coupled with increasing costs due to aging infrastructure and new regulatory requirements has made belt tightening a necessity. The Duke Energy Standards Lab needed to change or fall prey to the alternative. As W. Edwards Deming so aptly described the situation, “It is not necessary to change. Survival is not mandatory.”