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Concrete Success with Lean Transformation


A fairly new family-owned manufacturing business in Hartford, South Dakota, is already making big strides towards becoming a Lean manufacturing powerhouse. Cemcast Pipe & Precast makes quality concrete pipe, box culverts, manholes, and precast products for government and commercial development projects. Cemcast is the only South Dakota-owned concrete pipe supplier. 

The Challenge

Familiar with South Dakota Manufacturing & Technology Solution (MTS) through completing his lean certification and traveling to Kentucky to see robust lean practices in action, President Carl Carlson knew the importance of educating his employees on Lean manufacturing, so he decided to enroll his 25 employees in Lean 101 Training.

While everyone knew a great deal about lean after completing the training, the company wasn’t seeing a lot of improvements being made at their facility. Consequently, Cemcast decided to embark on lean projects with South Dakota Manufacturing & Technology Solutions (MTS), part of the MEP National Network™. 

Before lean, I had no ability to see waste. Following lean certification through MTS, I began to be able to see waste. By utilizing the value stream map plan created by MTS in December, we were able to remove massive waste and dramatically increase throughput without working harder!
— Carl Carlson, President

MEP's Role

Leadership at Cemcast went through value stream mapping to understand where the organization was currently at and where they wanted to be in the future. The company then created specific, measurable Lean goals for 2020 to align with their future state. By value stream mapping, the organization gained a clear vision along with a detailed plan to get there. 

The company also realized the importance of training its employees how to teach the duties of their own position to others. After working with an MTS Training Within Industry business advisor, Cemcast created a standard approach for training employees. It allowed them to get new employees up to speed quickly and cross-train others to become multi-skilled, problem-solvers.

Another aspect Cemcast focused on through lean training was cultivating culture. Carl knew in order to sustain lean, he needed it to be a team effort. Inspired by the book Everybody Matters, he changed his leadership approach from holding managers personally accountable if something went wrong to praising good work and engaging people in the improvement process.

Created July 29, 2020, Updated July 12, 2021