The Power of Empowerment

July 27, 2018


Over the past 10 years, DVIRC and Johnson Matthey, a proprietary manufacturer of catalytic converters for automotive industries, have been working together on multiple efforts to realize the corporation’s company-wide focus on operational excellence. This initiative is so important that the company has a corporate-wide position focused on Lean implementation, and is well aware that the soft skills, such as communication and working in teams, are just as important as the technical tools.


Beginning in 2007, Johnson Matthey established several corporate sustainability goals, including reducing energy usage per unit of output by 50% by 2017. The company as a whole is now very close to achieving the goal, but the Devon site has already achieved it. During the past year, the Devon site has continued its Continuous Improvement thrust with the empowerment of site-wide problem solving teams to address other major business opportunities.

“Continuous improvement and sustainability go hand-in-hand,” said Bob Stajnrajh, Kaizen and Sustainability Director at the Emission Control Technologies plant in Devon. “Whatever your improvement is has to be business sustainable,” he added, mindful that Johnson Matthey has shareholders and is in business to make a profit.

A 30-year Johnson Matthey veteran, Bob Stajnrajh, Kaizen and Sustainability Director at the Emission Control Technologies plant in Devon, came to DVIRC’s Director of Advanced Manufacturing Jeff Kopenitz and said “Jeff, we need to train our people to be good independent problem solvers. There is so much untapped potential in the organization for doing this. We want, however, good problem solving that addresses root cause and eliminates the culture of “jump-to-solution” which in turn only band-aids issues.”


Johnson Matthey understands the power of investing in the professional development of its people and has made ongoing investments to support a continuous improvement culture. “We’re making this investment because it’s the right thing to do for the company and the right thing to do for our people,” Stajnrajh said.”

The company has embraced Lean Thinking and is starting to put Lean tools and team-based problem solving to work. Leaders have accepted coaching and mentoring as key parts of effective implementation, and want the entire plant trained in Root Cause Analysis and the use of these tools and processes within a cross functional team environment. “We are working toward giving our people a chance to identify problems, solve them, and present their solutions to management,” Stanjrah noted.

The company is committed to empowering its people and understands the importance of employee engagement at all levels of the firm,” said Kopenitz. “It’s been a real pleasure working with the folks at Devon,” he said. “This is one of the smartest, most committed companies I’ve ever worked with. “

So far, over 150 people have been trained in various aspects of Continuous Improvement. Eventually, all of the over 500 employees at the Devon site will have had Lean training, pushing leadership and problem-solving down to the shop floor.

Devon has been an example of the success that can be obtained with Lean tools. “But,” Stajnrajh adds, “Even though we’ve seen some initial success, we’re still in the early stages of full implementation. Doing it right takes time and our entire team is working to do it right.”


Over the last two years, the Devon problem solving teams have successfully addressed significant business improvement opportunities. Examples of the outstanding results the continuous improvement problem teams have accomplished include:

  • Reduced inventory variation to mid-single digit levels from mid-teen levels.
  • Reduced WIP by nearly 50% through analysis and applying standard work to the storage and material flow of materials across the site.
  • Significantly improved the order process system in excess of 20% order to cash.
  • Improved a site-wide space constraint through adherence to standard work and the elimination of non-value material handling practices.

DVIRC and Johnson Matthey continue to have a sound and productive business relationship and our recent discussions with Bob Stajnrajh indicate the team-based problem solving processes have become the standard way identify and monetize opportunities and to identify and resolve problems.

“Our partnership with DVIRC will continue to pay dividends.” says Stajnrajh.

About Johnson Matthey

Johnson Matthey is a global speciality chemicals company underpinned by science, technology and its people.  A leader in sustainable technologies, many of the group’s products enhance the quality of life of millions through their beneficial impact on the environment, human health and wellbeing.  The group focuses on clean air, clean energy and low carbon technologies and is an expert in the application and recycling of precious metals.  Johnson Matthey has operations in over 30 countries and employs around 12,000 people. Its products and services are sold across the world to a wide range of advanced technology industries.  For further information, please visit



DVIRC is a regional economic development organization with a public purpose—to support the profitable growth of small and mid-sized U.S. manufacturers. Our vision is to have the region’s manufacturing companies recognized as among the most advanced and innovative manufacturing companies in the world. Through its consulting services and courses, DVIRC has worked with firms of varying sizes and functions on Lean and Continuous Improvement strategies. To learn more about these and other services DVIRC offers, contact us here.

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