A Lean Way of Thinking

I recently interviewed Paul Akers, CEO of Fastcap, on The Push Thru Podcast and learned about how their company implemented LEAN thinking. The results are nothing short of amazing!

Several weeks ago I posted an article on TOC, Theory of Constraints, and explained that in our operation a single bottleneck was needed to control the product flow. This thinking goes against the teachings of LEAN.

After speaking with Paul, I have not changed my views on the importance of TOC, but I now understand that Lean can be implemented in conjunction with TOC.  

For this article I do not want to talk about the procedural aspects of the two systems, but rather the philosophy of Lean and how it can be successfully implemented to change your business and your life.


So What is the Philosophy of Lean?

So, before we dig in let’s define Paul Akers version of Lean.

He is not doing Lean as a way to improve the bottom line, he is doing it to make his life better.

Paul calls it 2 Second Lean. The basic premise is that if you make a 2 second improvement every day the cumulative result will be amazing. Lean is eliminating waste through continuous improvement and growing people.

2 seconds. I think we can all handle that.

The key to his version of Lean is that he is not doing Lean as a way to improve the bottom line, he is doing it to make his life better. By making a 2 second improvement every single day, his life is easier and he is a highly productive person.

What would your business or life look like if you made a simple 2 second improvement every single day?


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The Backbone of Lean

In this article we will go over the backbone of 2 Second LEAN which is 3S, yes that’s right 3S not 5S. The simplicity of the 3S approach is very Lean in and of itself, it is also very easy to remember.  

The 3S of 2 Second Lean is:

  1. Sweep

  2. Sort

  3. Standardize



This is pretty self explanatory but it is how it is implemented in FastCap that caught my attention.

Every single morning they 3S their area. They start by sweeping it and getting rid of any unneeded clutter or trash.

I have always tried to have everybody sweep daily at the end of the day. Some people do it and some do not. I think that doing at the beginning of the day makes sense because you have the energy, and have not started your daily tasks.  

However, at the end of the day we are just ready to go home so cleaning can be put on the back burner.



Immediately after sweeping they sort their areas. If there are tools or products that do not belong in that area they get put back in their place.

This is the step that my shop has the most problem with.  

How often have you walked through the shop looking for a phillips screwdriver only to find a hundred flat screwdrivers?

Again, by sorting our area daily it ensures that everything is in its place and you have the tools you need when you need them. We have recently started utilizing Kaizen foam from FastCap to sort tools at each station so that if there is an empty hole in the foam there is clearly a tool missing.  

HINT: Do not make these boards for your employees. Let them make the board even if they mess up. Maybe they initially put too many tools in the board but later realize they don’t need a certain tool. It is just foam and easy to redo. By letting the employee do the task they are invested in the outcome.



In our Article Series, How to Make it in the Cabinet Industry, I wrote an article on SOP’s and the importance of them in our operation. Making SOP’s part of our daily routine is a great idea and will have a huge impact on our business.  

For example, in our shop, we are coming up with a standard workbench design. One that has all the tools you need, where you need them, and is universal so everyone can easily learn how to use it.  

Standardizing makes cross training possible, controls quality, and establishes universal benchmarks for everyone to follow.  


Making Lean Last

When I walk through the shop I can find several problems and areas of waste. From too many steps to over processing, there’s time wasted and I know it needs some Lean. The problem is getting started on a Lean initiative and, more importantly, staying on it.  

What happens often times is that we implement new systems and practices yet they fizzle out within a few months or quicker.  

Why is that?  

I believe the answer is that it starts at the top. If the owner or CEO does not live it, then why would everyone in the operation want to?

I now understand that if you, the owner, approach Lean from a philosophical perspective, then implementing it will be much easier. Lean has to be a culture, not something employees are forced to do.  



In Fastcap, there is zero doubt that Paul lives LEAN, therefore his company is full of Lean fanatics. He even has factory tours so outsiders can see their way of doing Lean.  

How much better would you be as an owner if you put on your own “factory tours”?  


a lean powerhouse

By implementing a daily 3S routine and a 2 second improvement your operation will be on the course to becoming a Lean powerhouse.  



I would encourage you to read the 2 Second lean by Paul Akers, and get a thorough understanding of how Fastcap implemented lean in their operation.