Grand Rapids Fire Department Uses Lean to Transform Itself and City

The Lean transformation at the Grand Rapids Fire Department started around 10 years ago (after the 2008 downturn). They had to lay off firefighters, had trouble answering over 20,000 emergency runs a year, and their infrastructure was crumbling. They started with the A3 problem solving tool.

Grand Rapids, Michigan is one of the fastest growing economies in the country. That means there were a lot of buildings going up, which means increased risk of fire and a higher call volume for their 11 stations and 200 firefighters. They transitioned from no longer doing lean to cut costs; instead they are doing it to increase their capacity and keep pace with the environment.

Looking at critical task analysis, takt time and system mapping, they can save 96% to 97% of a property if they can deploy seven rigs with 19 personnel to the fire in less than ten-and-a-half minutes 90% of the time. 

When they first got into lean, the city was running on a deficit of tens of millions of dollars. Thanks to the diligence of the Chief Financial Officer and to lean thinking, they have not only recovered the deficit, but also built up cash reserves.

They are one of 239 accredited fire agencies in the world through the Center for Public Safety Excellence, and lean helped them accomplish that.

Once they started to see some results, they began to lead the lean transformation for the entire city.

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