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Students Partner with Haworth Corporation

Students Partner with Haworth for Lean Analysis

April 21, 2015
During the Fall 2014 semester, Dr. Lisa Eshbach’s Lean Service Enterprise and Leadership students got to work with a Ferris State University community partner, Haworth Corporation, Big Rapids Steel Plant. Haworth invited the students to recommend improvements to their E-Coat Unload process. The objective was to analyze a process and make improvement recommendations based on lean principles learned in class.

This corresponded with the course final project, which, as both comprehensive, integrative, focuses on how to design, continuously improve, and lead a lean business process initiative. Throughout the semester, the students complete assignments in specific areas of lean service enterprise and leadership. The project concentrated on Systems Planning and Thinking (seeing the whole business as a value stream), human relations skills (leadership, strategy development and deployment, change management, and team problem solving) and Lean Principles (kaizen, PDCA, SS, pull, leveling process stability, standardized work, root-caused problem resolution and A3 Reporting). As a result, the students have a good understanding of how to apply the principles to real situations.

The first step of the final project was a field trip to Haworth. The students visited Haworth mid-semester to understand the E-Coat Unload process. Follow-up visits provided all the information required to develop a proposal to increase process efficiency and continuous improvement. The five teams presented their recommendations to Haworth during finals week in December. It was a great opportunity for the students to share their insights and recommendations with Haworth. Special thanks go to Dana Hall, Mark VanderVelde, Christine Smith, Holly Allan, and Ferris Operations and Supply Management intern Lukas Thompson of Haworth for providing process information for students’ use in the analysis. Thompson was hired by Haworth full-time in December and now works at the Holland facility.

Eshbach viewed the collaboration as a win-win. “The opportunity allowed the students to apply the lean principles in a real-life environment,” she said,“where they were able to gain insight on how this type of system would be actually implemented in a work environment. It also provided Haworth with some good ideas/suggestions on what to implement with respect to efficiently improving the E-coat unload process.”

Hall, Haworth Big Rapids lead planner, also viewed the experience as a “win-win collaborative project.” By requiring that the Haworth team teach the Ferris students about the Haworth manufacturing processes and “lean HMS tools,” it expanded their own “lean toolbox” knowledge base. The project also reinforced that taking the time to use the formal lean tools creates an excellent business case for implementing continuous improvements.


Industry Partner: Haworth Corporation - Big Rapids Steel Plant 

Project: E-coat Unload.

Class: MGMT 492 – Fall 2014.