COVID-19: Extraordinary Women Leading in Extraordinary Times – Lean Manufacturing

Masked female engineer
Masked female engineer
Masked female engineer

COVID-19: Extraordinary Women Leading in Extraordinary Times – Lean Manufacturing

The faculty and staff of Kettering Global and Kettering University Online would like to take a moment to honor all the lives lost and encourage all those struggling to get well. We also send our most heartfelt wishes to those continuing to suffer from the multitude of circumstances resulting from the ongoing pandemic.

COVID-19 and its variants have gripped the entire globe. It is clear that no age, gender, health status, professional title, income, political party, or ethnicity is safe, nor is any particular industry is immune. Businesses are adapting their models and strategizing ways to stay open, and their collaborative leadership teams are making extremely difficult decisions.

Despite the intensity of trying to live and work in a pandemic, there are many examples of extraordinary leadership from those who would say they "were just doing their job." There is much reporting on the role that women, in particular, have taken throughout the pandemic. As such, Kettering University Online is shining a spotlight on women who are leading during these unprecedented times.

Extraordinary Women Leading in Extraordinary Times is a blog series focusing on female leaders in healthcare management, lean manufacturing, operations management, engineering management, data science, business administration, and supply chain management industries. These women exemplify the decision-making, effective communication, agility, critical thinking, and leadership skills this era demands.

In addition, by the end of this pandemic, leaders will have a lot to share about what they can teach future female leaders about how to guide departments and organizations in times of crisis.

Next in this series is an example of two women succeeding in the manufacturing industry and information about Kettering University Online's M.S. in Lean Manufacturing program.

Engineers reviewing a prototype

What is Lean Manufacturing?

The manufacturing industry has steadily evolved from craft to mass production. Before the middle of the 20th century, hallmarks of mass production were large amounts of inventory, thousands of low-skilled assembly line workers, and a great deal of diversified waste.

Although many companies have applied numerous production strategies designed to increase their return on investment, none were as successful as Toyota. In the middle of the 20th century, Toyota pioneered lean manufacturing, a new way to think about manufacturing along with a specific production strategy that would forever change the way businesses think about their products, their employees, and their customers. As such, these concepts are not beholden to the only automobile manufacturers. Regardless of whether they sell goods or provide services, all kinds of businesses can benefit from adopting a lean philosophy.

At its core, lean concepts are about maximizing customer value through minimizing waste. After assessing each area of waste, an organization can then implement lean best practices that are likely to make the operational activities run more smoothly, thus improving efficiency and increasing profit.

Whether you work in a plant, factory, hospital, or office environment, understanding how to apply lean theory to the day-to-day activities of your organization, particularly during a global pandemic, can make you a valuable asset and position you for career advancement. During the COVID-19 pandemic, the companies that could enhance their lean best practices, or pivot to them, were likely the ones that survived, then thrived.

Insights from Leaders

Lean Sensei Women, Lean Enterprise Institute

Within the Lean Enterprise Institute is a group of accomplished female experts. Lean Sensei Women is a geographically and professionally diverse group who shares a commitment to developing people and teams to produce more value for both customers and society.

These women quickly saw that through sharing lean practices they could help organizations realize how to navigate the quickly changing business demands during COVID-19 (Lean Enterprise Institute, 2021). Some of their suggestions were:

  • Provide point-of-use cleaning supplies
  • Ensure the psychological safety of workers
  • Increase check-in points with workers
  • Ensure leadership is aligned with new policies/procedures and all information is clearly and quickly communicated
  • Implement visual signs for directives

All these suggestions are tied to the hallmark concepts of lean manufacturing.

Carolyn Lee, Executive Director, Manufacturing Institute

As Executive Director of the Manufacturing Institute, Carolyn Lee is determined to revolutionize the manufacturing industry through workforce development, skills certification, and veteran training initiatives. During an award presentation honoring women in manufacturing, Carolyn Lee likened COVID-19 to WWII:

"The most famous symbol of manufacturing in America is a woman, Rosie the Riveter. Rosie inspired women to work in America's arsenal of democracy during WWII. Today, manufacturers have mobilized to fight a new war, against COVID-19. . . . And that wouldn't be possible without a dedicated, talented, innovative, and diverse workforce" (Lee, 2020).

Regardless of industry, professionals with a degree in lean manufacturing can increase their marketability or add more value to their current position. Read on for more information about the KUO Lean Manufacturing program.

Engineers reviewing a computer at a job site

KUO – MS Lean Manufacturing

Coming from a wide range of educational, career, and geographical backgrounds, KUO faculty unite in the effort to link transformative experiential education to rigorous academic standards with real-world applications for learning that lasts a lifetime.

Take a look at the curriculum:

  • The Globally Integrated Manufacturing Company - introduction and integrated overview of contemporary global manufacturing operations including an in-depth look at the application of attitudes, skills, and knowledge required of managers, supervisors, team leaders, and manufacturing professionals in a cross-functional and cross-cultural manufacturing environment.
  • Six Sigma for Manufacturing – examines techniques to maximize efficiency and maintain control over each step in the production process.
  • Lean Production Systems - systems thinking and business dynamics are presented along with contemporary lean thinking principles, lean enterprise development, and value stream mapping.
  • Work Analysis for Lean Production Applications - survey the basic techniques of methods design, work measurement, business process analysis, and ergonomics.
  • Quality Assurance and Reliability – learn about quality assurance, including an introduction to quality and quality philosophy, statistical methods of quality improvement, the concept of variation and its reduction, statistical process control, and acceptance sampling.
  • Metrics for Lean Production Improvement - understand the data typically available within a manufacturing or service environment and how to use information derived from such data to employ a lean paradigm to improve operations.
  • Integrative Capstone Project - business-focused course with a project-oriented perspective applicable to the integrated operating environment.

None of these concepts are exclusive to manufacturing, each course allows a way for a student from any industry to think about their area of business or field and adapting the concepts that originated in manufacturing to the specifics of their industry.

You can also customize your M.S. Lean Manufacturing degree with your choice of a 3-course graduate certificate in Modern Business Practices, Global Leadership, Operations Management, Healthcare Management, or Supply Chain Management Level 1 or 2.

Imagine the added advantage of not just getting one master’s degree but having two for the same number of courses some institutions require for only one degree.

In addition to earning your Master's in Lean Manufacturing, we provide a unique option for you to enroll in just five extra courses to earn your Online MBA as well.

Our knowledgeable and supportive admissions advisors are here to help guide your decision about our program offerings to achieve your career goals.

Visit to download a free guide or speak with an admissions advisor today!


1. (2017, June 7). Carolyn Lee to Lead NAM's Manufacturing Institute as New Executive Director. Quality Magazine.

Lean Enterprise Institute. (2021). Lean sensei women.

Lean Sensei Women. (2020, March 20). Why (and how) we believe we can help during Covid-19.

Worldometers. (2021, June 21). Coronavirus cases and deaths.