David Westphal

David Westphal founded DLW Partners, LLC in early 2009, just as the most recent recession peaked. This period of recession was the most dramatic reduction in consumer spending, employment contraction and job loss since the Great Depression of 1929. In 2008 and 2009, the U.S. labor market lost 8.4 million jobs or 6.1% of all payroll employment. Wanting to make a positive difference in North America and disheartened by the trend of manufacturing offshoring (which compounded the recession problem), David began with a mission to transform organizations through lean.

David was already well prepared for the job, having trained under some of the leading minds in operational excellence and lean, most notably Mr. Tom Harada of Toyota. He also honed his leadership skills on a tough playing field of North American automotive manufacturing. David developed an exceptional industry reputation for leading large-scale manufacturing operation restructuring and turnarounds.

During his formative years, he was tasked with fixing some of the most troubled manufacturing operations within GM and Delphi: In 2006, David led the single largest North American improvement and restructuring effort in history for the then Delphi Automotive, Saginaw Division. With Tom’s guidance and continued mentoring, David began the process of working with additional companies, helping them achieve transformational performance change for the better—a task he is still driven to do today.

My first jobs were as a farm hand on local cash crop and dairy farms. There, I learned the value of long days and hard work. Once in industry, I began working in small job shops as a machinist. In those days, you earned your right to work on the machine by first doing odd jobs in the shop, sweeping, deburring, any task that needed to be done. Those were good lessons for me: those jobs needed to be done, and they taught me to value hard work and appreciate every task as important. I was able to eventually use my machinist skills to help pay my way through engineering school, going to school during the day and working a full-time job at night.

I have had wonderful opportunities to grow in my career with multiple Fortune-ranked companies, and have held the following leadership roles and titles:

  • Vice President of Manufacturing Operations and Engineering
  • Business Line Executive, New Market Development
  • Executive Director of Global Lean Manufacturing
  • Director of Manufacturing and Lean
  • U.S. Site Manager of Transformation
  • General Manager
  • Plant Manager
  • Sub-Plant Manager
  • Labor Negotiator
  • Superintendent of Manufacturing
  • Superintendent of Engineering
  • Lean Manufacturing systems manager
  • Project Launch manager (overseas)
  • Industrial Engineering manager
  • Chief (Divisional) Welding engineer
  • Divisional process engineer
  • Product Engineer
  • Process engineer
  • Machinist
  • And (of course) a floor sweeper and farm hand!

David is also a senior advisor for the Lean Enterprise Institute, a Boston MA, non-profit.

I started my lean training from the day I first set my foot on a manufacturing shop floor. It wasn’t called lean then, but in the job shops, if you couldn’t make a profit you didn’t survive. Those early years taught me a lot about how to think about every job as important. That has stuck with me. I have always wondered how in our modern society manufacturing lost its “mojo.” The original industrialist had no option for failure, no safety nets, and I think that really says a lot about their vision, and passion to succeed. Unlocking that same passion today I think is a bit of a lost art.

My first Japanese teacher who introduced me to formal lean was Mr. Tom Hara of the Shingajitsu group, he taught me a lot about “kaizen,” Continuous Improvement, how to do it right, and how not to do it wrong. He was influential in my understanding of “Go and See.” I was trained by and worked with Mr. Yuri Yamada and Mr. Kazumi Nakada, both expats of Toyota while I was part of Delphi and was a member of the Presidents Manufacturing Leadership Council I also worked in an assignment at NUMMI (now the Tesla Automotive plant) in Fremont California, out of the General Motors Technical Liaison Office (TLO). Later on, I was the director for the joint venture with Delphi and Japanese headquartered Akebono Brake, in Elizabethtown Kentucky.

While in Delphi Saginaw, I worked under Mr. Mike Husar, a former NUMMI executive, and really learned a lot from him about fundamental lean understanding. Mike was one of the first American managers I saw that really understood lean and applied it right. John Shook (Executive Chairman of the Lean Enterprise Institute) and James Womack (Emeritus Chairman of the Lean Enterprise Institute) taught me a lot about how to think, and they continually challenged me to make changes that were “lasting and meaningful.”

The most formative period for me was working with Mr. Tom Harada in plants and operations around the world, learning lean from the source, not from books or hearsay. I learned from Tom with just one degree of separation from Taiichi Ohno, the father of lean himself – right from the firsthand learning and observation of the source. That was for me an opportunity to understand how Toyota did what they did – before all the books, and all the hype, how and why it really happened. It was my time with Tom and his teaching that truly brought all the other learnings into one body of thought for me. It was there, from him, I earned the nickname “Bushido Dave.”

I love to have the opportunity to help a company and team succeed in ways they never thought possible. When I am not working with a client, I enjoy being in the outdoors, hunting, fishing, boating, skiing, and simply spending time with my family.

To give every client our very best, to partner with them and help them succeed. It is their success that ensures ours.

With the hundreds of years of combined experience in our team and the fact that we learned lean, operational excellence and execution from the very best of the best, we are a firm that does work with the client, not to the client!