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Ken Kreafle inducted into Shingo Hall of Fame

May 21, 2019

Ken Kreafle, longtime employee of Toyota, was inducted into the Shingo Institute’s Academy, or Hall of Fame April 30, 2019 at the annual Shingo Conference. Kreafle has a long association with the University of Kentucky, College of Engineering’s Lean Systems Program.

Ken Kreafle, longtime employee of Toyota, was inducted into the Shingo Institute’s Academy, or Hall of Fame. It was presented April 30, 2019 at the annual Shingo Conference held at the Northern Kentucky Convention Center in Covington, Kentucky.

The Shingo Institute is part of the Jon M. Huntsman School of Business at Utah State University. It offers courses and awards to companies and individuals for success in operational excellence. The annual awards are very prestigious and sought after in the fields of Lean Systems and Continuous Improvement.

Individuals honored with membership in the Shingo Academy have had a significant impact on operational excellence throughout their careers. Many of them attend the Shingo conferences and enjoy the camaraderie of the other academy members, Shingo examiners, and award recipients.

In addition to Toyota, Kreafle has a long association with the University of Kentucky College of Engineering’s Lean Systems Program. He often served as an instructor at Lean courses, and named as the Toyota Executive in Residence three times. Kreafle was an early advocate of the mutually beneficial cooperative effort between UK and Toyota Motor Manufacturing Kentucky (TMMK) for research and teaching the Toyota Production System (TPS). Now part of the Institute of Research for Technology Development (IR4TD), the Lean Systems Program, and TMMK continue to benefit from an active partnership. Dr. Kozo Saito, current IR4TD director and longtime colleague, extended congratulations on behalf of all members, while recognizing Kreafle’s passion and leadership. 

While serving as a Toyota Executive in Residence, Kreafle was the program director and played a major role in establishing the direction of the development of the Lean Systems Program. He often said that while working at Toyota he was “marinated” in TPS because it was already the company’s culture. Implementation in companies with different cultural backgrounds requires a different approach.

To address this issue, he introduced his Model Area Implementation plan, which is a cornerstone of UK’s Lean Program training. His teaching mirrors the universally accepted principles behind the Shingo model. Drawing on his own experience, he realized that a system of models to illustrate these would be an effective and unique teaching system to help companies transform their thinking. As a result, the Lean Systems Program is now globally recognized as a leader in lean training. The group’s lean practitioners, many of them retired Toyota executives and managers, have assisted numerous organizations through a lean transformation.

In 1987 TMMK hired Kreafle, making him one of its first American employees. TMMK was the first wholly owned, integrated vehicle and powertrain manufacturing plant Toyota built in the US. Kreafle’s early introduction to TPS established a foundation for success. His combined efforts on behalf of industry and education add up to a tremendous accomplishment as a lean practitioner, a thought leader, visionary, and leader. Kreafle retired from Toyota in 2018, and now serves the Lean Systems Program as a highly valued Lean Senior Advisor.