Training and Implementing Lean with a Blind Workforce

by Brion Hurley

Brent Weichers is the Director of Continuous Improvement at The Lighthouse for the Blind. Based out of Seattle, Washington, they are a not-for-profit Aerospace and Military Supply manufacturing company. The Lighthouse employs over 260 individuals who are blind, DeafBlind or blind with other disabilities.

When he started the job and started to train the employees on Lean methods, he realized the usual training methods were not going to work. For example, anything that was a visual (PowerPoint slides, training manual) had to be modified or replaced.

In his book chapter, Brent relates how he had to re-invent what is normally considered a very “visual” science, and turn it into something that an employee who is blind could not only comprehend but use.

In one example, they were able to reduce the number of needed workers from 15 to 7, increase the number of blind employees from 45% to 100%, while increasing production from 1500 to 2600 units. They also increased productivity from 100 to 371 per employee, while also reducing the square footage from 1600 to 245. This led to cost savings of $300K.

You can read more about this story in the book, “Lean Six Sigma for Good: Lessons from the Gemba (Volume 1)” .