Cutco Cutlery

Cutco workers and executives stand around a table.

The management team at Cutco Cutlery in Olean, NY, always strives to improve operations – whether in engineering, quality, or any other department of the kitchen cutlery company. While pockets of success have emerged, employees of the 428-person workforce have too often been recruited for new quality initiatives that disappear before momentum takes hold. But a recent approach – the Lean methodology of reducing waste – is showing staying power and erasing worker skepticism that it’s just the new “flavor of the month.” Cutco has dabbled in Lean before, but at the level of using one LEGO brick to build a house, as machine operator Jason Graham put it. Graham compares the adoption of TCIE’s full-fledged Certified Lean Professional (CLP) training program to, “We’re going to build a house and here’s a box of LEGOs. Here are the tools.” The effect has been the spread of a consistent mindset for making processes better. It’s forcing greater attention to analysis among everyone, rather than managers fixing issues that were incorrectly assumed as problems. More discussion between company functions – like the mechanics and machine operators working more collectively instead of pointing fingers at each other when things go wrong – are disintegrating silos. And perhaps most resoundingly, Lean is empowering long-time employees who have felt their voices were underutilized in the past.