The Power of Empowerment

March 23, 2015

In 2007 Johnson Matthey established several corporate sustainability goals. One of those goals was to reduce 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 achieved that goal last year.

“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 adds, mindful that Johnson Matthey has shareholders and is in business to make a profit.

DVIRC and Johnson Matthey have been working together on multiple efforts over the past ten years to realize the corporation’s company-wide initiative 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—communication, working in teams—are just as important as the technical tools.

jm2Johnson 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.”

A 30-year Johnson Matthey veteran, Stajnrajh 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.”

The company has embraced Lean Thinking and is starting to put Lean tools to work. They have accepted coaching and mentoring as key parts of effective implementation, and want the entire plant trained in Root Cause Analysis. “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.

jm1Devon 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.”

“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  

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