The Polish Academy of Lean

How the Lean Academy has been embraced and adopted across GE Aviation teams in Poland, bringing lean culture to the next level of improvement and involvement.

march 2020

Due to the constant pursuit of the development of a culture based on performance and continuous improvement, training and workshops based on Lean methodology are held at GE Aviation facilities around the world. Training sessions help employees understand, see, and then implement this way of thinking in their daily work.

One of the most compelling features is the Lean Academy, a week of intensive learning of key LEAN disciplines followed by the implementation of practical projects in the production area and in transactional processes. The main goals of the Academy are to equip participants with knowledge of Lean methodology and to help them understand in practice what this transformation is, how important it is for the business, how to increase the efficiency of their own work and how we can support it as a crucial part of our organization.

Improvement usually starts from gaining a deep awareness and knowledge followed by the implementation of improvement ideas. In Poland, the Lean Academy was pioneered in 2019 by the following Lean Leaders: Jakub Huma from Avio Aero Polska in Bielsko Biala, Katarzyna Iwko and Michał Kowalski from GE Aviation Dzierżoniów and Paulina Pietrzak from the GE Aviation plant in Dowty.

A moment from the Academy class at Avio Aero Bielsko Biala

The Polish version of the Academy greatly facilitates the acquisition of knowledge for diverse groups of employees who speak their native language. The first edition took place at the Unison - GE Aviation Dzierżoniów plant, drawing great interest and bringing many valuable ideas for improvement as well as added value for the business. At the end of February this year, the second edition of the Academy took place, this time at the foot of the Beskids mountains, in the Avio Aero Bielsko-Biała plant.

The Academy training program has been designed skillfully, combining both theory and practice. The first 2 days are dedicated to learning the Lean methodology and tools, then testing them through various exercises. It is also a great opportunity to get to know colleagues, building relationship and sharing best practices, while preparing for the use of tools during so-called AWO (Action Workout). On day 3, participants are divided into working groups in which they focus on production or administrative processes: here they get the chance to work on an actual organization and design a realistic plan for improving selected processes, using previously learned tools. 

Jakub Huma, Avio Aero Polska Lean Leader, emphasizes what the added value of the Lean Academy is: “the implementation projects are defined in accordance with the current business needs of the plant, aimed at increasing the value of their implementation”. Likewise, Michał Kowalski - one of the Academy's trainers points out that “it is also worth adding that this is one of the few courses of this type that can be attended by people who have never learnt about Lean before. Participants are specialists from various functions, holding several different roles in their businesses. Indeed, it is important to look at certain processes from completely different perspectives. The more diverse the roles played in the organization, the better the effects can be seen in implementing Lean projects in practice."

From the left Jakub Huma, Katarzyna Iwko, Paulina Pietrzak & Michał Kowalski

"Changing the way we think, perceiving our work and the work of other colleagues, going beyond our own area, seeing processes from a broader perspective: you can't ever get bored with Lean!"

The Lean Academy in Bielsko gathered professionals from Avio Aero Polska, GE Power Elbląg, EDC Warsaw, Unison - GE Aviation Dzierżoniów and Xeos in Środa Śląska. This enables benchmarking, sharing good practices and solutions, and learning from each other. "Thanks to the network of connections and contacts between GE businesses in Poland, we are able to build and develop a Lean culture in our factories, especially because of natural differences among sites: taking into account the degree of implementation of Lean culture and tools around those sites is a great way to standardize this knowledge within every GE site in Poland. " - adds Paulina Pietrzak, Dowty Site Lean Leader.

"Lean transformation really begins with a cultural transformation" adds Katarzyna Iwko, Senior Lean Leader at Unison.  "We need to gradually change the way we think, perceive our work and the work of other colleagues, going beyond our own area and learning to see certain processes from a new, broader perspective. Lean won't work without it. In my opinion, Lean is the most interesting function in the company - it works well with all departments, you can't ever get bored with Lean!"

A group during a LEan workout

However, for this transformation to be effective, Lean activities must have a long-term strategy and be systematically implemented. Development is best when made up of small steps. "I remember that, in the beginning, Lean started from scratch” adds Jakub Huma: “5S, then we worked on reducing inventory and shortening lead time, but today we really focus on reducing costs, following the company's priorities and adjusting our strategy accordingly."

The key to success is understanding the huge value of Lean philosophy, cooperation and exchange of experience between plants, commitment and support in implementing this change in your workplace, regardless of the role played in the company. Not only the Lean department is responsible for the transformation and its success, but the entire crew needs to work together in the long term perspective to see results in more efficient work, improved safety and ergonomics and elimination of waste, which in turn affects the results of the entire plant.

Every photo in this page was taken on February 28, 2020.

AUTHOR

Anna Domagala