Gemba Academy at American Axle & Manufacturing

By Mark Umlauf, Senior Manager, Lean Business Process Team

Mark Umlauf

By Mark Umlauf, Senior Manager, Lean Business Process Team

At American Axle & Manufacturing (AAM), Lean is a cultural value. We have been using lean in our manufacturing facilities for many years.

We have been recognized as an industry leader in lean manufacturing and are a recipient of the Shingo Award. Developing our associates is a key part of the lean culture, and we have established an internal lean training program for both business and manufacturing associates.

The training material for our Lean Business Process Class introduces lean concepts and tools, with an emphasis on Standard Work, Process Mapping, and Problem Solving. Since 2012, we have successfully integrated Gemba Academy videos into our instructor-led course in two ways.


First, prior to attending the course we require participants to watch two background videos from the site. Second, during the course we incorporate select videos to emphasize the material being presented. For example, we show the video “Standard Work – Standardization” as we start that topic during the course.

We have designed our training course to give attendees an opportunity to “learn by doing.” Each participant will work on a self-selected lean initiative throughout the course. We ask participants to select a process that they are familiar with, can be improved, and they have some control over.

At the conclusion of the course they have an outline of steps that can be used to prepare an action register. This activity gives participants practice with the concepts and is a good start on a real-life process improvement.

Periodically, we recognize successful initiatives by posting a summary on our associate portal. Posting these success stories is a good way to recognize teams for their work, and also provides an opportunity to share improvements that could benefit others in the company.

Through these and other initiatives, we have reduced process times, implemented standardized work instructions, and seen measurable improvement in the completeness and accuracy of information flow.