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FLEXcon’s McDonough Recognized as Business Leader of the Year

Relationships may have helped Neil McDonough push FLEXcon into lean manufacturing. He became interested in the concept back when Japanese companies were widely perceived to be taking over the world.

"I read a lot and I’ve always considered myself kind of a student of business," McDonough said.

But McDonough said many of the lessons weren’t immediately applicable to a company like FLEXcon that has to offer a lot of customization. Then, around 2002, he saw a flyer for a workshop put on by the Massachusetts Manufacturing Extension Partnership called "Lean for Job Shops." He and a couple of his top managers attended that event and others like it, and soon became evangelists for the lean approach.

The company applied lean thinking to a problem with getting certain orders out in time and soon found that an approach they had thought promoted efficiency was actually tying workers’ hands.

"It was incredible what a problem we caused ourselves," said McDonough.

Steve Szydlowski, a project manager for MassMEP who works with FLEXcon, said the company has become an example that his organization uses to explain the benefits of lean policies to other companies.

"Just about every aspect of lean they’ve tried and driven through their organization," Szydlowski said. "There are very few companies that can embrace lean and make it part of their culture."

Continual Improvement
Szydlowski said one key to FLEXcon’s success with lean has been the company’s willingness to try new things, including ideas that come from people in all parts of its organization.

"It’s also the encouragement from the top down," said Szydlowski. "Lean people will tell you that lean is grassroots — the ideas are going to spring forth from the people on the floor — but the grass only grows as high as the lawnmower. Neil lets the ideas come up."

Neil McDonough was honored in February by Worcester Business Journal as a Business Leader of the Year. Read about the event and see photos.


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