Company Success Story: Lifeway

February 17, 2016 | By Danielle Goss

LifeWay Christian Resources had tried to implement lean principles and tools since 2010, but like many other companies, faced change management challenges. Although leadership was supportive of lean initiatives, LifeWay struggled to get the whole organization on board. Fostering a culture that strongly supports team member training and development, Lifeway sought the expertise of Georgia Tech's Lean Supply Chain Professional Certificate Program – courses offered by the Georgia Tech Supply Chain & Logistics Institute (SCL) in partnership with Georgia Tech Professional Education (GTPE). The certificate program, taught by educators who are also supply chain leaders, is easily understandable and immediately applicable. This dynamic program was the clear choice for taking LifeWay’s culture to the next level.

Being one of the world's largest providers of Christian resources distributing everything from bibles to music, Lifeway Christian Resources had a growing need to increase productivity, reduce wasteful activities and improve value to its customers.  But the company needed solutions. Lean process and strategy weren’t permeating through its culture or its supply chain. In addition, LifeWay was beginning a large-scale project to remove waiting from the order fulfillment process in its distribution center and needed guidance.

Based on Lifeway’s positive experience with GTPE in the past, the company sought its expertise again to help establish lean principles and maximize the operating efficiency of its supply chain. Once more, working with GTPE turned out to be the right decision. The program enabled the participants to conveniently balance off-site learning with their daily work. And the teamwork, which included applied learning projects, drove on-the-job improvements that yielded immediate results throughout the program. "It's always good to get out of your day-to-day silos and learn what your peers in the industry are doing," said Justin Sullivan, manager of supply chain and systems at LifeWay. “We really enjoyed the hands-on application, airplane simulation and real-life examples. It was a unique learning experience from other courses we've taken. The knowledge of the instructors is unmatched. They truly show passion and enthusiasm for what they are teaching."

After completing the courses, the team of eight, who hold various distribution roles from upper management to the team lead level, returned to Lifeway better positioned to implement the lean culture and start driving real results to become more competitive. "This program better opened our eyes to the value of people," said Nicole Hudson, manager of continuous improvement at LifeWay. "When we learned about the people part of lean, we understood we couldn't achieve anything without our employees – not just upper management, but all team members."

Lifeway now holds an annual problem-solving contest to bolster employee adoption with fun themes such as "Under Construction" and "Mount Everest." Just this year, the team has uncovered 60 “rocks,” or problems, and has solved them at the root cause – saving the company $125,000. These are the improvements made on the floor by the people doing the work. The total estimated savings for this program is between $400k - $500k.

"Your front line people are your most important asset," said Hudson. "That's something this program taught us that truly led to our success."

For more information on Georgia Tech's Lean Supply Chain Professional Certificate Program, click here.