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The Insitute of Research for Technology Development Celebrate the dedication of the Ken Kreafle TrueLean Networking Lounge

July 08, 2024

On Thursday, June 27 the Stanley and Karen Pigman College of Engineering celebrated the dedication of the Ken Kreafle TrueLean Networking Lounge with a generous gift from Jeff and Barbara Stryker.

Dean Buchheit (left) with Lean Systems Program leadership and Jeff Stryker in front of dedication plaques

Dean Buchheit (left) with Lean Systems Program leadership and Jeff Stryker in front of dedication plaques

Jeff Stryker is the owner of two Chick-fil-A locations in Lexington Kentucky, Nicholasville Road and Turfland Mall. Early in Stryker’s tenure as owner, he realized he needed a more efficient operational system to run his stores. Stryker learned about Toyota’s lean practices while reading a book in the airport. When he returned from his travels and was back in his store, he met customers by chance who were working with the UK True Lean program. Stryker did some research and enrolled in the class. This was a significant milestone for Stryker and his stores in their Lean journeys. 

Thirty years ago, the University of Kentucky (UK) partnered with Toyota to transfer the Toyota Production System (TPS) knowledge commonly known as Lean to interested companies, creating the Lean Systems Program (True Lean) in 1994. The mission of the UK True Lean program is “to systematically explore, study and teach the workings of the Toyota Production System (TPS).” Currently, the University of Kentucky’s program is the only official Toyota-sponsored program in the world that teaches the true essence of TPS. 

Stryker met Ken Kreafle while enrolled in the True Lean Systems Program. Stryker’s collaboration with Kreafle and the Lean Systems program has strengthened Stryker’s business operations. Mr. Stryker business locations have become a “go and see” for several of the Lean Systems program’s corporate clients. His success in applying Lean principles and his continued association with the Lean Systems program are a testament to the impact of his leadership and the power of Lean to transform an organization. 

Kreafle has been a leader within the UK Lean Systems program since 2007 and was the first Toyota Executive-in-Residence appointed by Toyota to build the UK Lean Systems program. While at Toyota, Kreafle served as the program’s Toyota Executive-in-Residence and as its program director. Kreafle played a significant role in establishing the direction and development of the UK Lean Systems program by working closely with Mr. Fujio Cho, a former President of Toyota Motor Manufacturing, Kentucky. 

Stryker has applied Lean principles to strengthen his stores’ operating systems. This has led to consistently high-performing stores in customer satisfaction, employee satisfaction, volume, and profitability. 

A few examples include: 

  • The capability to maintain industry-leading quality in both food and order accuracy while meeting high volume demand with unpredictable fluctuations at times. Key contributors are:  standardized work, effective role definition among the staff, effective business processes, problem-solving to drive improvement, and empowering management behavior.  
  • A culture of truly respecting employees attracts a high-quality workforce based largely upon reputation as a great place to work. Key practices include a root cause/countermeasure approach to problems vs. root blame with no countermeasure. Even in the labor shortage times of 2021 through the present, they have generally not had a problem filling positions. Turnover is 50% per year, and most of this turnover is driven by it being time for an employee to move to the next chapter of their life, not simply quitting. This is 37% better than the Chick Fil A national average of 87%. 
  • The ability to rapidly and effectively train new employees to maintain seamless high performance with a 50% turnover rate, which, while excellent for the industry, is still high. Standardized work plus an effective systematic training method are keys. 

Though Styker has completed the Lean Program, he remains connected. Many instructors are engaged with Stryker and utilize him on a consulting basis. On-campus, True Lean trainees consistently visit his stores to learn from his leadership. When asked what motivates him to remain connected, Styker said, “Lean is very much a pay it forward culture — Toyota is almost like the Chick-Fil-A of Japan — [both are interested in helping] society become better. I am seeing the fruit of that.” 

The Lean System Program is housed within the Institute of Research for Technology Development (IR4TD).  The success of the Lean Systems Program led to the creation of the Fujio Cho Department of Engineering Technology (ET), which offers two undergraduate degrees in Lean Systems Engineering Technology and Computer Engineering Technology. Department Chair of ET and Director of IR4TD, Nelson Akafuah, commented on the impact the True Lean Program has had on business owners like Stryker. “It is amazing to see how industries we work with flourish after completing our program.  We were fortunate for the opportunity to work with Jeff and are grateful for his and Barbara’s generosity in recognizing one of our great practitioners.”  

The dedication of the Ken Kreafle True Lean Networking Lounge is a significant milestone in the history of the Lean Systems program at the UK Pigman College of Engineering.


Learn more about the Lean Systems Program at: truelean.engr.uky.edu