Recognizing the “Good Catch”

Showing Gratitude On The Fly

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Everybody likes to be thanked for a great idea or save, right? That’s just human nature. Plant Manager Greg Sitton has been championing the Good Catch award at Cambridge in the new year. Inspired by a similar award system at Keeley Companies– the Good Catch award was implemented to give supervisors in the shop an opportunity to call out a good “catch” or action made by someone on the fly – and to give them a chance to win $50 for it as well!

“I was always bad at remembering to say ‘thanks’ towards my guys. They would do something really cool, and I would think it was really cool, but I would forget to tell them that,” he explains when asked why the award is a positive move for Cambridge. “I wanted to put something in place that is easy for me to remember to show my gratitude.”

“Catches” can be something as simple as reminding someone to lower their safety glasses or finding a mis-step along production before it becomes a quality error. Supervisors keep the Good Catch chips in their pockets so they can distribute them as needed,

without having to remember to thank them retroactively. And when all is said and done, the person who earns the Good Catch chip earns a change in a monthly raffle to get a $50 gift card – not bad for an action that is performed so instinctively by the guys in our shop!

In this video clip, Greg Sitton chooses the winner of the February Good Catch award!

What’s Love Got To Do With It? EVERYTHING!

Recognizing Unconditional Love in the Workplace

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At Cambridge, we speak of having love for our fellow employees often. This isn’t the romantic love, though today is Valentine’s Day, but rather, the sort of love that is built upon mutual respect, admiration, and encouragement to learn and grow personally. Our playbook even includes the phrase “We express unconditional love and high expectations while behaving with care, courage, integrity and respect.” It might not be instinctive to recognize love in the workplace, but when you are aware of it, we’d bet that it is, in fact, surrounding you. We are going to share some examples of how love manifests itself into everyday life in our workplace, so that anyone reading this blog may start to recognize and appreciate simple acts around them, or simply start to institute the simple acts themselves.

  • Colleagues clappingto show appreciation for each lean video– the 2 second improvements and the ones that took much, much longer.
  • The men and women on the activities committee getting here 2-3 hours early on the days they cook breakfast to welcome new hires and celebrate birthdays.
  • The workers looking out for safety hazards in the shop, recognizing that sending people home safe to their families is more important than an on-time shipment.
  • Those who voice a Grateful Appreciation in the morning meeting– shoutouts to coworkers who helped with a task, gratitude for their spouse’s hard work/children’s health/parents’ help, appreciation for an incredible event they were able to experience.
  • The volunteers that take out the trash, wipe down counters and clean the toilets so that their colleagues can have a clean and comfortable place to work.

Love in the workplace can also present itself when a working relationship has reached its end. There are thousands of examples of employees and employers who have acted without love at this moment, throwing accusations or reducing the other party to a singular act. However, when you choose to act with love, you can figure out how the parting of ways can be mutually beneficial, and leave room for both parties to take what they’ve accomplished, recognize their growth and move forward. When it comes times for an employee to be released from Cambridge’s employment, we try to arm them with a portfolio of the improvement videos they’ve created, along with guidance and/or recommendations on where their strengths could take them. When an employee chooses to take a position outside of Cambridge, we conduct exit interviews to gain insight on how to continuously improve. Either way, with these actions, we strive to speak compassionately and give the person the respect and dignity they deserve.

These are just a few examples of how love can manifest itself. It starts with each individual knowing that they are treated with care and respect and grows organically with those actions until loving acts surround the organization.

Spend a Few Minutes With Your Label Maker – and Reap the Benefits

Labeling & Organizing Your Workspace is a Quick & Easy Place to Start

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One might consider labeling the items you use in your everyday workspace part of the low-hanging fruit when starting in your lean journey.  As simple as it seems, it could also be one of the most important. It’s easy to underestimate the time spent looking for a tool, or referencing it against a process checklist to make sure it’s correct.

But, imagine you have been assigned a task that should take about 20 minutes to complete. Your workspace has the equipment necessary, but there are also extra tools, scattered around the workstation. The task should be easy, but you haven’t performed this exact task in the past few months. A good portion of this 20 minutes could be spent just trying to figure out what you need, and what might be missing. A clearly labeled workspace and tool outline in your area would immediately cut down on preparation time and the possibility of rework needed due to the use of an incorrect tool.

In the video below, Reggie Niesler shows how the labelling of the tool bin helps to “give everything a home” to keep the number of tools in the area at a minimum and provide clear outline of necessary tools needed for that process.

There are also safety and cost aspects associated. With a clear tool outline, you won’t have tools that could drop off easily or have sharp edges exposed, assuming they were put back into their tool outline with care. You can prevent unnecessary reordering of parts thought to have gone missing because you know exactly where each tool is. Lastly, imagine the headache you can avoid by having to track everything down. That alone is worth the few minutes with the labeling machine.

This blog discusses the principles brought up in Lean Manufacturing and 2 Second Lean. Make sure to check back often to get tips and Cambridge’s POV on lean implementation and its effects on our company and culture.

Excellence Strategy: Simplicity and Spreading the Word

A Four Part Series

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Reprinted with permission from the Winter 2017 issue of Target, an AME Publication.
Authored by Lea Tonkin

Part Four of a Four Part Series. Miss the beginning? Click Here to Read!



Leadership continues to hone its strategic planning process, and how strategic initiatives reflecting lean progress and goals are communicated throughout the organization. Having a three- to nine-month “thematic goal” or rallying cry, with defining objectives, has been a primary method for building alignment during the past five years. Beginning in 2017, a three-year strategic plan has been put in place to help drive longer-term decision making towards a common vision.

“Our three-year plan has helped the teams focus and continue to increase engagement,” Marc Braun said. “For example, one of our initiatives for 2017 is that every employee will spend at least a half-day learning by benchmarking at another company. We continue to improve our process for rolling forward on strategy, so that goals are aligned in five key areas: organizational health, lean/continuous improvement, revenue growth, product development and paying it forward.”

The company’s primary method for sharing strategic plans and goals with employees and asking for their feedback is the daily all-company meetings. Last year, executive committee members also asked employees also asked employees, in groups of 10-12 at a time, about their feedback on these plans, and made changes, like reducing the number of initiatives, based on feedback received.

Excellence strategy: What’s next

In the coming year, developing standard work will be a major area of focus, as Cambridge continues to drive for the next level of quality systems, according to Braun. “What’s good is that our people are asking for it,” he said. “It is employee-driven, enhancing our ability to innovate rather than stifling it. Also, using Scrum methodologies to increase the speed of product innovation through our engineering teams is a next evolution for us – using the same level of experimentation in this area, which will deliver rapid value to our clients.” (See Scrum’s Potential for Rapid, Lean Product Development)

Cambridge is also ramping up its efforts to utilize its continuous improvement engine to build a world-class safety culture. “We have a culture that cares deeply, but intend to focus more of our continuous improvement time on building a zero-incident mindset across the company,” said Braun. “We want to be able to demonstrate that safety and innovation cultures can be built simultaneously.

“I believe lean has enabled us to grow our people faster that we’ve been able to grow our company – and at a 16 percent compounded annual revenue growth rate, that is an accomplishment our teams feel extremely proud of,” Braun said. “The desire to grow is there. Before the cultural buildout, we wouldn’t have had the ability to sustain the growth. The simplicity of the system the teams have built is that it enables others to step in and lead. We’re continuing on a journey; we’re learning, having a blast, and building a powerful, sustainable growth engine.”

Humility, Cultural Recruiting & Morning Meetings

A Four Part Series

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Reprinted with permission from the Winter 2017 issue of Target, an AME Publication.
Authored by Lea Tonkin

Part Three of a Four Part Series. Miss Parts One and Two? Click Here to Read!



The culture at Cambridge reflects a unique perspective on pursuing humility. From the president to the front line worker, people share a consistent theme of humility as something to strive for instead of something to endure.

“Humility is part of the beauty of working here and part of what attracted me,” said Meg Brown, human resources director. “You are asked to make improvements and share them with videos. It’s empowering to be able to say, ‘I made a difference today.”

“No task is too small,” added Brown. Leadership and others from throughout the company voluntarily share the task for cleaning bathrooms, for example – reflecting humility and ownership.

Cultural recruiting

Cultural recruiting – attracting potential employees who will support the Cambridge collaborative approach – is crucial to the company’s long-term success. “We attract people who enjoy being problem solvers, and being given the ability to make changes,” Brown said. “This gives us a huge competitive advantage in this tight labor marker.”

Cambridge Engineering’s employee turnover rate is 12.7%, including seasonal workers. “This is ‘sticky’ in a good way,” Brown said. “People like the freedom to change things that bug them, and to be supported in their work environment.” Brown added that training and development investment will continue to evolve, as Cambridge leadership continues to strive for organizational health and alignment in all areas.

Morning Meetings – cultural glue

Finding frequent opportunities to celebrate employees and their improvement ideas, and to grow leaders, is key to building lean capabilities at Cambridge. All-company 15-minute meetings are held daily at 8:30 am. “The morning meeting provides an enormous opportunity for growth across the company,” said Bruce Kisslinger, Jr., director of manufacturing. Meetings are led by a different employee volunteer every day; more than 50 percent of the workforce step into this role.

The meetings start with stretching and the leader sharing anything they would like to with everyone in the company. Then employees share gratitude for anything that brings job to employees. Anyone can grab the microphone and share; many do. Next, videos created the day before are viewed and everyone claps as employees courageously share their attempt to improve their processes. Finally, company announcements and company metrics for safety, quality, delivery and revenue are covered. Outsiders are encouraged to experience these high-energy meetings first-hand.

Learn through exposure (benchmarking)

Mike Taylor, who works in pre-paint, is a volunteer member of the Cambridge External Lean Exposure Team. “About ten of us are on the team,” Taylor said. “We are in charge of finding other companies doing lean, where we can learn from them. Our goal is 100 percent external opportunities (every Cambridge employee visiting at least one other facility) by May 2018; we’re now at about 70 percent.

“We try to take one nugget from every place we visit – something we can use in our lean projects,” added Taylor. “For example, one of the main things we focus on is visual cues throughout the plant – labeled parts, visual cues for replacing parts so that you can go ahead and order parts while you keep working. We bring back ideas to our team, and if it’s low-cost and not affecting safety or quality, we can implement changes ourselves. We have the freedom to make our lives easier.”

Part Four of this Series will be released on Wednesday, January 24th! Make sure to check back to finish the series!

Great People, Ideas, Processes and Products

A Four Part Series

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Reprinted with permission from the Winter 2017 issue of Target, an AME Publication.
Authored by Lea Tonkin

Part Two of a Four Part Series. Miss Part One? Click Here to Read!


Great People, Ideas, Processes and Products

“For us, lean is about people and people growth,” said Sitton. “It’s not something that is simply implemented. You can’t just drop it on people.” Key elements in creating lean understanding include lean classes for all new hires using “2 Second Lean” as a guide, and then taking them out to the shop floor and asking them to stand there and look for the eight types of waste. “Within ten minutes, they typically see 20 to 50 wastes,” Sitton said.

The company also gives employee time on the clock to read “2 Second Lean” and to discuss the book in a team setting, encouraging employees to “go and see” waste and to develop remedies for eliminating waste in their work areas. “With ‘two-second lean,’ you have simplicity, breaking things down so everybody can make a great process and a great product,” said Sitton.

This expectation reflects a significant transition from Cambridge’s initial lean efforts, when senior leadership and engineers usually initiated lean improvements. “That idea only works for owners of the company,” said Sitton. “We realized that we needed more people who buy into the culture, with a sense of ownership. Now we develop people with a sense of trust, who are able to see waste and fix what’s bugging them, and they now all respond as owners.”

Fast start for new employees

New employees are encouraged to jump right into lean improvements at Cambridge. Justin Meade, a general laborer who works on wiring panels,said he got started with innovative changes in the first week after he joined the company, about two and a half years ago.

“When I first started an assembly job, it wasn’t very fun,” said Meade. “Then, after seeing some others’ videos, I started on improvements – first, a small project, putting tools that were scattered all over onto a shadow board.” Over a period of six months, Meade developed a cart furnished with parts, plus a trash can and tools needed to eliminate wasted movement and space during his daily tasks. He made videos of several improvement iterations, modifying and later eliminating the old cart. Along the way, he got help from a sheet metal team member, a welder and others in creating the new cart. Now, everything that’s needed, tools and parts, is in one area. “It used to take an hour and a half to do a particular job. Now the process takes 20 to 25 minutes a unit,” said Meade. “I just went ahead with it, after talking with my team lead, Scott Moore, who encouraged me to make the changes.”

Meade said he continues to gain improvement ideas and inspiration from participation in morning employee meetings. “I like that everyone here updated about how the company is doing financially. We’re also encouraged to give input on company goals,” he said.

“Lean and clean time” – about a half hour from 8:45 a.m. to 9:15 a.m. every day, is when every employee is encouraged to scout for improvement ideas. It also provides opportunities for “finding out what bugs us most and then fixing it,” said Meade.

Part Three of this Series will be released on Thursday, January 18th! Make sure to check back to finish the series!

Growing, Engaging People Every Day In Lean

A Four Part Series

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Reprinted with permission from the Winter 2017 issue of Target, an AME Publication.
Authored by Lea Tonkin

Cambridge Engineering employees are growing even faster than the company

Inspiring stories about lean and enterprise-wide transformation can sometimes seem too good to be true. This is the feeling Marc Braun, president of Cambridge Engineering, Inc. in Chesterfield, Missouri has about the company’s cultural transformation during the past several years. “It is incredibly humbling to walk into the plant and see how our people are growing and how much joy lean has brought into their lives,” Braun said. “You wouldn’t believe it unless you experienced it for yourself.”

The family-owned heating and ventilation system manufacturing company is known for high-quality products and a strong family culture. What’s happening now, through lean, is different. John Kramer, Jr., chairman and CEO, shared, “People know me as a being a big dreamer, but the impact our people at Cambridge are making in others’ lives exceeds my wildest dreams. I believe the journey we are on is one that will ultimately restore glory and dignity to manufacturing in America.”

Introducing lean concepts in the plant more than ten years ago seemed a logical step to Kramer. Many experts said to start with 5S improvement projects, train the workforce on Japanese terms, and then add a host of metrics and plan white boards – adding to the mix of daily priorities. Although some progress was made during this time, it was top-down driven and merely tolerated rather than embraced by employees. “There were too many metrics, and there was too much focus on cost rather than on people,” Kramer noted. “Our busy season (fall through January) would hit, and I would tell my people to stop improvements and ship products. All of our lean principles would go out the window, as people didn’t have time to make improvements. Although I had a glimpse of the vision of a lean culture, many times it felt like we were going backward rather than forward.”

Staying focused: A Turning Point

After working with an executive coach and following the plan for organizational health described in Patrick Lencioni’s book, “The Advantage,” Kramer determined that his leadership was the biggest challenge and barrier to making the cultural changes he envisioned in the company. “I would whipsaw the organization in a million directions without giving them the chance to make progress,” he said. “Once I stopped and allowed the team to focus on the key areas for success, and develop a rhythm and pace, the cultural progress started to come alive.”

During this period of growth, operational team members came back after a lean benchmarking trip to FastCap Paul Akers’ facility in Washington state. “They were excited about his book, ‘2 Second Lean,” Kramer said. “They had met with Paul and learned that you can take something complex and make it simple- a way for people to make improvements and prosper. We starting making simple improvements, opening up more dialog with our employees. The concept was embraced by our organizational leadership and also resonated with me and our executive team members, because it focused on people growth and engagement. Because it was so simple to understand and was people-focused, the team was able to quickly share with others inside the company, and we haven’t looked back since.” Akers strongly encourages readers to start their lean journey by learning to see waste, allowing people to “fix what bugs them,” and then to make short videos for sharing improvements with others.

“I remember how excited our leaders became about the concepts taught in “2 Second Lean.” Their courage to try something new and experiment with videos was amazing,” said Braun, who was the executive vice president of sales and marketing at the time. “Our marketing department had utilized video sparingly. We had a collection of several videos reflecting the “Cambridge Story,” and little presence on YouTube. The company now has more than 4,300 videos created by employees, demonstrating their genius. It has been like pouring gasoline on a fire.” Here’s where employees shine, as they share one-minute videos they’ve made about recent improvements. Sometimes there are accounts of rapid changes to eliminate wasted steps or prevent over-reaching at a work station, for example; or there may be videos reflecting several improvements over an extended period of time. “Making videos of your improvements helps to reinforce that you are making a contribution, “ said Greg Sitton, plant manager. Every employee is encouraged to make one-minute videos. Although some associates readily take to the camera, others need help and teammates step in to capture the improvements.

To see an associate video, click here.

Stay tuned for the next installment to be published January 16th!  

Creative Emceeing Makes the Morning Meeting Much More Fun!

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Part of the personal growth effort of Cambridge includes encouraging each employee to feel more confident speaking in front of a large group and other public speaking opportunities. The “practice” of this improvement comes in the form of taking turns to Emcee the morning meeting that we hold out in the shop every day. Each Emcee can speak to whatever they’d like as the group stretches – some take the chance to talk about their families or hometowns, others give trivia and yet, others – like Steve, our Controller – take the opportunity to be creative.

Watch the video below to see how Steve used his introduction time!

Making SAFETY a Priority

Sharing our LEAN SAFETY Playlist to Inspire a Safer Working Environment

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A few months ago – we realized that we were missing out on an instrumental LEAN Principle: continuously improving the safety of our best problem solvers (our employees). That said, we had been tracking safety issues and conducting Root Cause Analyses when needed, along with reporting at our morning meeting what had happened and what solution was being applied. But something was missing.

Our employees identify LEAN opportunities and make videos to show to the company every day. Their ideas are so creative and effective, which, in turn, inspire others to think about how they could apply these and other ideas to their work station and processes. Naturally, some videos started to turn toward LEAN applications that were to help with SAFETY along with productivity – and a light bulb clicked. Once we realized that we had room for improvement, we started to encourage workers to consider what could make their work station and our community areas have a lesser chance of hazard for themselves and others. Some improvements are as simple as cleaning off an overhead shelf so that they couldn’t possibly fall on somebody and some as complex as creating new processes with additional checkpoints.

Below is a playlist of our LEAN SAFETY videos that we share in hopes that you might find something applicable at your company – whether that be the initiative in general or a specific idea. We are seeing new ideas every day, meaning Cambridge is becoming a safer work environment, and that is a win for everybody.


Choosing the Right Heating System for your Facility

Understanding the Pros and Cons of Each System Can Help You Avoid Poor IAQ and Unnecessary Cost

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Is the heating bill for your plant or warehouse too high? What about cold dock door areas and unbalanced temperatures? Is negative building pressure a problem? Do your employees complain about it being too cold making it harder for them to do their job? Do you have high maintenance costs from existing heating equipment?

These are just a few common problems that result from selecting the wrong heating system, misplacing your heaters so they can’t reach their full potential or using obsolete technology. What factors determine the best space heating system? Everyone wants a heating & ventilating system that meets their unique requirements at the lowest total cost. Before selecting a heater, define the heating/ventilating requirements and understand all the cost factors that determine the true lowest total cost solution for a specific facility.


One of the oldest forms of heating, boilers have been in existence since about the 1800’s and are still a preferred Boiler Heating Systemsystem of heating in large industrial facilities where remote plants deliver steam and hot water to satellite locations to circulate through heat exchangers. These exchangers can be part of unit heaters, make up air systems, or anywhere a heat exchanger can be installed. While huge advances in boiler technologies have evolved over the past few years, boiler systems are typically the most inefficient heating technology – with the highest overall installed cost, the highest cost to maintain and repair, and a huge level of stratification of the surrounding air. When discussing boiler replacements or supplemental heating with contractors, it’s very important to consider the overall operating and maintenance costs of these systems. Boilers require maintenance to ensure they operate at their peak efficiency.  Parts such as valves, traps and fittings wear out over time. While the boiler system generates the heat, they also require a distribution system – such as unit heaters or make up air systems.  A lot of mechanical components to consider.

Unit Heater Heating SystemUNIT HEATERS

The most basic of all heating technologies, unit heaters are inexpensive to purchase and have good familiarity by most contractors and engineers. The redundant design makes servicing by contractors very simple. They are fairly effective in zone heating. Unit heaters promote poor indoor air quality and huge levels of stratification in the space upwards of 20-30 degrees without adding additional HVLS fans.  They offer a low temperature rise versus direct fired technologies, a higher operating cost, and cannot combat dock door infiltration.


While infrared or tube heaters are good for zone and spot heating applications, they should never be used as the sole source of heating large spaces.  Radiant heaters offer a relatively low operating cost and a way to heat tools, work stations, and people without consuming floor space.  Radiant heaters do not offer indoor air quality benefits nor any ventilation in the summer. They do not promote air mixing and have a high installation cost due to line of sight restrictions and coverage limitations.


Recirculation systems or 80/20 systems are typically thought to be more efficient than other technologies due to the fact that a large amount, up to 80% of the air moved is recirculated, thus not requiring a large amount of gas to heat it up. Recirculation units are widely used to combat facilities with mechanical exhaust systems, especially when variable CFM is needed. They typically regulate the amount of outside air they introduce, based off the CFM needs of the building itself. Typically, fewer units are necessary and they do a decent job of providing summer ventilation. Recirculation systems are draw thru systems with a minimal effective temperature rise of about 40-50F. When dock doors are open in a facility, the recirculation units will be driven to 100% outside air and with discharge temperatures ranging between 80-100F, they must run continuously to cycle enough CFM to make up the temperature and pressure drop. The recirculation units are very large and heavy, requiring larger cranes, structural modifications, and much larger first cost and operating costs. They are not certified for use in Canada and with recirculation of air and contaminants, products of combustion can build up in the space.

Air Turnover Heating SystemAIR TURNOVER (AIR ROTATION)

Air turnover has been marketed as a package system to industrial customers since its inception in the 1920’s.  While marketed as a single piece of equipment (a large tower set in the corner of a warehouse space), the greatest advantage of air turnover is the ability to provide BOTH tempered heating and cooling to a space.  Air turnover systems offer decent heating with limited stratification due to the massive volume of air they recirculate in the space.  This air mass is moved due to a continuous operation and very large horse power motors driving the fans.   Air turnover units provide a very low temperature rise of between 20-30 degrees and a discharge temperature of about 80-90 degrees.


Direct-Fired Makeup Air units provide required ventilation to meet indoor air quality needs with efficiencies between 90-92% AFUE.   Widely beneficial in buildings with fixed CFM needs due to mechanical exhaust, makeup air units provide a fixed volume of air independent of the heat they provide.   With a lower discharge velocity at the plenum, air typically does not hit the floor to sweep and de-stratify the space and can lead to lower employee comfort levels.  The fixed CFM blowers require larger HP motors with over-pressurization of spaces a reality.  Larger motors, lower temperature rise, and less efficient design require more energy to run.

While Cambridge uses our Blow-thru design of the S-Series and SA-Series heaters to heat, a lot of manufacturers use makeup air units attempting to do the same.  In places where there are warmer climates and less winter cold, makeup air systems offer a way to temper the outside winter air thru a lower temperature rise of between 100° and 120°F and a draw thru design.  This places the mechanical components in the hot air stream.  For heating applications, we recommend our S-Series and SA-Series heaters.  With a Blow-thru design, our mechanicals are in the cold air stream.  The position of the blower relative to the burner and the burner’s ability to discharge 160°F, provides advantages over ANY makeup air unit – more air mass and higher temperature rise.  This provides the most BTUs per CFM from any manufacturer.

Cambridge’s M-series make up air units are designed to temper the air in situations where there is a lot of fixed or variable exhaust.  They can be interlocked with existing exhaust fans or outfitted with variable frequency drives.  Our units can come with fully modulating burners and automatic profile adjustment dampers.

Hopefully, the topic we’ve outlined today will help prepare you to address any technology claim from other manufacturers. As always, feel free to contact us with any questions. We can easily accommodate lunch and learns, audio and video conferencing, phone, or face to face sales calls.