CITEC Manufacturing and Technology Solutions Executive Director Thomas Plastino describes the Lean White Belt training program that was recently completed in Plattsburgh. Participants learn 'lean capabilities' they can implement at their companies and share with co-workers

PLATTSBURGH -- Employees from nine local companies received white martial-arts-type belts that symbolize their rank in implementing lean practices.

"I think they have done a great job applying those lessons," said Lean Manufacturing Analyst/Sensei Jim Myers, who works for CITEC Manufacturing & Technology Solutions, a non-profit economic-development organization with offices in Plattsburgh and Potsdam.

About 25 people took part in CITEC's Lean White Belt training.


Lean manufacturing is a philosophy that espouses continuous improvement, the simplification and standardization of business processes and the elimination of anything that does not add value for the customer.

"The main goals companies have for adopting lean are to deliver what the customer wants, when they want it, at the least price and with the best quality," CITEC Marketing Director and Deputy Executive Director Patricia Wilson said in a press release announcing the graduation.

Participants met once a month for 11 months. After the training session, they were awarded their belts and a certificate of completion.


Two topics were covered each day. Participants were then instructed to apply those topics at their companies before the next session.

One example is the Green Tag program. When an employee notices equipment that needs a minor repair, the tag is applied and it is fixed when the equipment is not being used, rather than halting production to do so.

Myers said the White Belt program is an important first step to help a company go lean. It allows the participants to implement change from the ground level up at their company, to share what they've learned with other employees.


CITEC Executive Director Tom Plastino said he first heard about the lean philosophy six or seven years ago, when it was being touted as the savior of American manufacturing. The practice has been mainly developed by Toyota.

"I was skeptical at first, but I've become a believer," he said. "There really is something there, and it has value."

CITEC decided to focus on lean manufacturing five or six years ago.

"There is a future for manufacturing in the North Country, and this can make it successful," Plastino said.


McCadam Plant Manager Ron Davis said the company used to use a Total Quality Management Program and thought this might be a good tie-in.

"We have used quite a few of the ideas that came back from our students," he said.

Plant Sanitizer and Shift Supervisor Jon Guerin said the program provided a lot of benefit.

"I've got a whole new understanding of management. It also gives employees more insight on how things are done."

Shift Supervisor Brett Wheeler said the lessons they learned and brought back to the plant empower other employees.

"It's a total team effort. It gets rid of the us-versus-them' mind set," he said.

"The biggest part of lean for us is it has to be employee driven, not forced from the top," Wilson said.


Myers previously worked at Kodak and ran lean manufacturing training for that company. CITEC plans to offer a second round of the training starting in January.

"We have three companies interested so far," Myers said.

If there's enough interest, CITEC could provide training for Lean Green Belt certification. That would be for those able to spend at least 50 percent of their work time implementing lean-manufacturing processes through all levels of a company, Myers said.

Instruction would cover 20 topics in five consecutive days.

Plastino said CITEC representatives will be in contact with the training participants to discuss the impact of the training.

"We'll check on how it's working or any other ways we can help."

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