Students have established Lean@VirginiaTech, an organization dedicated to helping businesses become more competitive and profitable through education and hands-on support. Associate Professor Urs Buehlmann, who founded the organization with graduate students Christian Fricke and Mathias Schmitt, defines lean as “a management philosophy. The simplest definition is doing more with less. Lean is eliminating waste, and waste is everything that the customer does not value and thus is not willing to pay for.”

Though based in the Department of Wood Science and Forest Products, Lean@Virginia Tech is open to undergraduate and graduate students from any department or major. The student-driven, faculty-supported initiative has two branches — the LeanTeam@VirginiaTech and the LeanClub@VirginiaTech. “The LeanTeam is a place where students can enhance their learning of lean concepts by applying their knowledge and experience in practical business settings, while benefiting organizations across the commonwealth,” said Dean Paul Winistorfer. The LeanClub is a group of businesses that build a network with students, faculty, and other firms to support their lean transformation activities. All LeanClub events, such as summits and workshops, are organized by the student members of the LeanTeam.

Among their many efforts, the LeanTeam hosted a seminar at the 2010 International Woodworking Fair in Atlanta, introducing lean concepts to more than 150 participants and showing how the technology can be combined with other methodologies to achieve continuous improvement. Students traveled to Centralia, Ill., in spring 2010 to conduct onsite lean transformation events for Swan Corporation, a solid-surface producer for the kitchen and bath industry. A workshop on safety organized by the team is slated to take place this fall.