Oakland University’s Pawley Lean Institute and its Industrial and Systems Engineering Department is collaborating with the Lean Enterprise Institute, Inc. (LEI) in Boston — founded by the father of the Lean movement, Dr. James Womack — to create new educational opportunities in Lean thinking and practice for OU students, as well as to improve existing ones.

“LEI reached out to us upon learning about our ongoing efforts to educate our students on Lean concepts, techniques and applications,” said Dr. Robert Van Til, Pawley professor of Lean studies and ISE department chair. “We look forward to developing a long-term relationship with them to make our educational programs even better.”

Oakland University’s Pawley Lean Institute was established in 2002 by Dennis Pawley, the former executive vice president of manufacturing for the Chrysler Corporation, where he developed the Chrysler Operating System in the early 1990s to restore productivity and streamline procedures.

Pawley graduated from Oakland’s School of Education and Human Services in 1982. He has served on the Oakland University Foundation Board of Trustees and was a member of the University’s Board of Trustees from 1996-98, 2002-10, and 2012-13. He was awarded Oakland’s Distinguished Alumni Achievement Award in 2001.

“The meshing of two of the great Lean advocates, Dr. Womack and Dennis Pawley, is a unique opportunity that will make Oakland University a model that other universities will want to emulate,” said Dennis Wade, director of the Pawley Lean Institute.

LEI was established in 1997 with a mission to advance Lean thinking and practice throughout the world to make things better for individuals, organizations and society. Its founder, Dr. Womack, established LEI as a non-for profit organization to ensure that as the LEI community learned and created new knowledge it would be made available to the public to improve people’s lives.

LEI established the James P. Womack Scholarship & Philanthropy Fund (the JPW Fund), to advance how Lean thinking is taught in schools and learned through practice at the Gemba (a Japanese term that means “the real place” where value is added). The JPW Fund will fund creative learning experiences in partnership with schools teaching Lean thinking and community-based service organizations willing to provide Gemba-based learning and improvement opportunities.

The JPW Fund has provided an initial $15,000 grant to Oakland University that will be used to place students into paid internships in community service organizations where they will continue their learning under the guidance of coaches from LEI.

“Oakland University is unique in its approach to teaching Lean concepts at the
student level; not only is it theory-based but it also contains a practical, industry-focused, hands-on approach where students practice what they learn at the Gemba,” said Matthew Lovejoy, a member of LEI’s Board of Directors and chairman of the JPW Fund. “We are excited about funding unique student learning opportunities.”

The funding will also allow for K-12 students to visit to Oakland’s campus to conduct hands-on projects in Lean, ergonomics, and simulation working with Industrial and Systems Engineering students and faculty.

“Funding provided by the JPW Fund will provide Oakland students with hands-on Lean projects and allow for high school students to attend sessions by the Pawley Lean Institute and the Industrial and Systems Engineering Department,” Pawley said.

LEI and Oakland University are also partnering with Humble Design in Pontiac, Mich. OU’s students and faculty and Humble Design’s leadership and staff will be able to learn and practice Lean thinking in a real-world setting improving operations and the delivery of services to those in need.

Lovejoy said the collaboration is “just the beginning” of philanthropy opportunities with Oakland University, its Lean programs, and community organizations.

“We see research, joint ventures, shared learning and shared resources as a means of enhancing the student experience,” he added.

Van Til agreed.

“This is a great opportunity to enhance our ISE students’ education on Lean, as well as to improve our existing STEM outreach program to K-12 students,” he said.

For more information about Oakland University’s Pawley Lean Institute, visit oakland.edu/lean.

To learn more about OU’s Industrial and Systems Engineering Department, visit oakland.edu/secs/departments/ise.

For more information about LEI, visit www.lean.org.