Pawley Lean Institute partners with Lean Learning Center, provides new educational opportunities


Maggie Willard

Oakland University’s Pawley Hall.

On Jan. 12, the Pawley Lean Institute announced a collaboration with the Lean Learning Center fostering a new agreement regarding the Lean Learning Lab on campus.

The partnership between Pawley Lean Institute and Lean Learning Center includes pledged funding from the Lean Learning Center in order to increase educational opportunities within the Lean Lab. These opportunities include the use of equipment as well as instructional offerings.

The Pawley Lean Institute was established in 2002 by OU alumni and former executive vice president of manufacturing for Chrysler Corporation, Dennis Pawley. While Pawley was working for Chrysler, he changed the manufacturing process into a more efficient, waste-reducing method that also improved product quality.

Robert Van Til, Pawley professor of lean studies and chair of the Industrial and Systems Engineering program, noted that one of the reasons behind the founding of the Pawley Lean Institute was Dennis Pawley’s notice of employees lacking lean training or knowledge.

“Part of why Denny Pawley originally, back when, funded the Pawley Lean Institute on campus and has continued to support our programs is because when he was executive VP at Chrysler, he was finding people graduating out of a university really didn’t know a lot about [lean],” Van Til said.

“They were needing to send, even new people, into this training and spend a lot of money and taking time and he thought these things were a lot of important concepts that they needed to learn earlier.”

As stated on the institute’s webpage, the Pawley Lean Institute offers an interdisciplinary approach to lean learning within OU’s Schools of Education and Human Services, Business, and Engineering and Computer Science. The programs take an in-depth approach focusing on theory and academic preparation.

Dennis Wade, director of Pawley Lean Institute, states that, in his mind, the institute is responsible for three things: academic support, assisting in lean projects on campus both with students and faculty, and student engagements.

The Lean Learning Lab, located in the engineering center, serves the purpose of supplementing coursework for the different schools incorporating lean principles as well as a room for activities related to lean learning such as workshops or a means to connect students with industry professionals.

Pawley Lean Institute and the Lean Learning Center have been in collaboration for the past several years to provide educational opportunities for students at OU. The Pawley Lean Institute has been able to send students to lean training courses being conducted by the Lean Learning Center at no cost.

Additionally, Pawley Lean Institute has been able to offer students the opportunity to receive a green belt certification from the Lean Learning Center after completing undergraduate or graduate coursework, again, at no cost.

Both Van Til and Wade acknowledge that learning lean principles while at OU provides a leg-up for students as they enter the workforce. In a competitive market, having the ability to include lean education on a resume sets students apart from the rest.

“I think a deeper understanding [of lean principles] really makes them much more marketable. Our graduates have done extremely well in the workforce and, in part, this is one of the reasons,” Van Til said.

Wade says that the agreement between the Pawley Lean Institute and Lean Learning Center is promising for the future of lean education and training for students at OU.

“I think it’s got unlimited potential. We’ve certainly got enough things to kickstart it and I think we’re seeing tremendous opportunities within the institute to create these opportunities.”