Executive Platform Interview with Jack Feng, May 2016
Dr. Jack Feng is in charge of Commercial Vehicle Group’s Lean Six Sigma deployment at over two dozen CVG manufacturing facilities in the US, Mexico, China, India, Australia, UK, Belgium, Czech and Ukraine. Prior to joining CVG, Dr. Feng served different leadership roles within Caterpillar such as Strategy Manager / Master Black Belt, Industrial Engineering Manager, Director of Asia Pacific Lean 6 Sigma Planning and Deployment and Senior Technical Steward. At Caterpillar, he led the development and deployment of Caterpillar Production System (CPS) Master Black Belt program and taught its first four waves. He also led the development and deployment of the CPS Master Learning Center including CPS Assembly, CPS Machining and CPS Welding for hourly associates as well as for office employees. Before that, he was a professor of Industrial and Manufacturing Engineering at Bradley University and at Penn State University. Dr. Feng has conducted research projects and consulting services for Boeing, Caterpillar, China National Science Foundation, Cincinnati Machines, Dana Corporation, Deere & Company, Rockwell International, Rubbermaid, Society of Manufacturing Engineers, Tyco Health Division, University of Illinois Medical School and the US State Department Fulbright Program.
A lot of small companies struggle with operational excellence programs, and a lot of big companies struggle to work with their smaller suppliers who do not have effective lean and six sigma and operational excellence programs in place. That is what I want to talk about. I have worked for the very large companies, Fortune 50 companies, and now I am working for a much smaller company. Getting those organizations to work together starts internally and then involves a lot of communication and cross-training.
Do you find large companies want you to work to their standard, or do you try to meet in the middle? How are you aligning your Operational Excellence programs?
Before I joined the company we did not have this kind of structured program. Our big customers – Daimler, Volvo, PACCAR, Caterpillar, and John Deere — asked us to send our people to their Lean and 6-Sigma Black Belt training programs. We still have some of these people working at CVG and others have left to pursue other opportunities.
We had sent people to conform to our customers’ standards of work. They trained our people in customer service or quality improvement or performance improvement. We were not using the same tools or speaking the same language. They requested we send our people to their training programs, and that became part of the organizational requirement from our big customers, but it was not a long-term solution. It might cost us $20,000 for the training plus travel to train someone to our customers’ standards, and then there was no internal support here at CVG once they came back. Now we had people working in isolation: This one works for PACCAR; this one works for Caterpillar; this one works for Daimler and Volvo. There was no corporate organizational support for their work; they felt frustrated when they came back because people did not understand what they were doing.
Now we have decided to go above and beyond what our customers have requested us to do for them. We are going to build our own internal Operational Excellence (OpEx) culture to a very high standard. That’s good because, Number One, we have a lot of customers, and some of them were not requesting anything of us because they did not have a program of their own that they wanted us to follow.