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South Bend Community Lean Implementation Project

South Bend, Indiana

Purdue Manufacturing Extension Partnership teams with city of South Bend to train companies to implement Lean principles

The South Bend Career Pathways grant was created for the purpose of increasing the efficiency of the labor market by bridging the current disconnect between employers with unfulfilled jobs-and that segment of the City’s population that is un/under employed or not participating in the labor force.  This year the grant was extended further into a Pathways On Demand Program so that South Bend based employers and their South Bend resident employees could also benefit.

The Pathways On Demand grant has the principal responsibility to deliver on the City of South Bend’s Core Values of Excellence, Innovation, Inclusion, Empowerment and Accountability. Through this partnership with Purdue MEP the program has been successful in staying true to such values.


Workers from multiple South Bend manufacturing companies recently completed Purdue Manufacturing Extension Partnership’s (MEP) Team Member Lean Certificate Training and Lean Practitioner Implementation Certificate programs.

The cost of the training was covered by grant funds from the South Bend mayor’s Pathways On Demand Workforce Development Program.

South Bend Career Pathways was created to assist city residents eager to advance their employment prospects and income levels through career training programs. The program was expanded in 2018 to include on-demand offerings for South Bend employers to advance employees.  The end results benefit both the company and its employees.

“The biggest part of economic development has to do with investing in people. That’s only going to become more and more important, and that’s especially important when it comes to manufacturing,” South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg said.

This partnership between Purdue MEP and South Bend represented the pilot for the On Demand program, and the results have been so dramatic and significant for both employers and employees that the next contingent of companies is being recruited by the city.

“This program is exactly what our community needs. It will make our business stronger, more profitable and, hopefully, in the long run, will actually bring more businesses to our community,” said Mike Bauman, production manager of Elkhart Plastics.

Team members from Bamar Plastics, Elkhart Plastics, General Stamping & Metalworks, Hoosier Molded Products, JMS Engineered Plastics, PSI Molded Plastics and SPI Industries received training in the following: Lean Manufacturing, 5S system, problem solving and root cause analysis. Practitioner training included value stream mapping, quick changeover, total productive maintenance, Kaizen facilitation and project management. The practitioner participants also took an exam, then completed a continuous improvement project and formally presented their projects in December to business owners, coworkers, city dignitaries and guests.

Practitioner participants and their projects that presented were:

  • Elkhart Plastics, to improve product flow of DEF tanks and rotational molding process flow improvement.

  • General Stamping & Metalworks, to reduce stamping machine set-up time.

  • Hoosier Molded Products, to improve changeover times in production cell.

  • JMS Engineered Plastics,: to improve workflow from molding to assembly operations and improve changeover times.

  • SPI Industries, to improve injection molding machine changeover times.

“I want to applaud my fellow companies here for investing in your people and letting them have that time to come here and learn to make all of our companies stronger and, again, keep more jobs in this community,” said James Doster, president of SPI Industries.

Most training programs teach the fundamentals and techniques, but few require participants to put that knowledge into action. In Purdue MEP’s Lean Implementation Practitioner program, participants go from concept to implementation with results-driven projects, access to industry experts, and one-on-one project coaching. The ultimate goal of Purdue MEP’s training is to put Lean into action, resulting in cost savings for companies.

“A Lean journey is a long road considering the benchmark Toyota has been on theirs for several decades,” said Grif Maupin, senior productivity specialist with Purdue MEP, who led the training. This program gives individuals from the participating companies the knowledge of Lean tools and practical experience with them through the completion of a project. These projects were identified through the development of Value Stream Maps in order to see where constraints and wastes exist currently in their operations. Problem-solving tools and methods were applied to the issues identified to find high-impact and low-cost solutions for quick wins to their organizations. The long-term benefits come from the disciplined and repeated application of these tools, which lead companies on a continuous improvement journey.”

Purdue Manufacturing Extension Partnership (MEP) provides high-value solutions to help Indiana businesses maximize their success. As advocates for Indiana's thousands of manufacturers, our staff identifies areas of improvement, streamlines processes, and ultimately increases competitiveness. Purdue MEP serves over 500 companies annually by implementing continuous improvement principles in the areas of productivity, growth, and technology.

If you would like more information about this topic, please call Ranae Stewart at 317-275-6824, or email


Impact as reported by Practitioners (aggregate estimated as of 1/17/19):

  • Increased sales thru gained capacity - $5,499,800                                                                 
  • Jobs created - 5                                                                                                                          
  • Operational cost savings (annualized) - $610,039                                                                              
  • Investment in equipment (project-related) - $5,300                                                              
  • Investment in equipment (project-supported capital investments) - $1,450,000                          
  • Employer investment in workforce practices/employee skills - $49,640                                 
  • Investment avoidance (City-funded training grant) - $43,500                                               


Total number of Team Members/Practitioners trained/days (from 7 companies):

37 people attended 3 of 3 days

6 people attended 2 of 3 days

3  people attended 1 of 3 days

Full Article

Press Release: City of South Bend and Purdue Manufacturing Extension Partnership receive Industry 4.0 Award for “Most Innovative Workforce Development Implementation”


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