Knauf Insulation Uses Lean Six Sigm To Improve Energy Efficiency of Customers

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Knauf Insulation is a leading, family-owned global manufacturer of fiberglass insulation. Knauf Insulation started its North American operations in 1978 and has since grown to include six production facilities in the U. S. Knauf provides a variety of innovative thermal and acoustical solutions for residential, commercial, industrial, and OEM applications such as automotive. The company is committed to sustainability, using 10 railcars of recycled glass per day, and saving over 100,000 barrels of oil per year by using a bio-based binder, ECOSE® Technology.

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The Situation

While Knauf had focused on improvement opportunities since its inception, there is always room for growth. A continuous improvement program was in place, but it was missing a rigorous, data-based problem-solving methodology. The good news: Customer demand remained strong as the U.S. economy emerged from the Great Recession. Leadership wanted to find a way to add capacity to handle demand, and also improve quality and profitability.

Another goal was to develop the analytical and problem-solving skills of their staff. The Knauf management team chose Lean Six Sigma as the methodology to help them accomplish those objectives and to achieve profitability in both good times and bad.


The Solution

To get started on their LSS journey Knauf turned to Exactus, a Chicago-based executive consulting group. Chris Lawson and Pedro Menendez, both longtime executives in the building products industry, were chosen to lead the effort. They reached out to TMAC and began discussions with Russ Aikman and Alberto Yanez on the next steps.

Chris and Pedro commenced work in the fall of 2018 through a series of formal assessments at each Knauf plant. They met with the management team, identified potential projects, and helped select candidates for Lean Six Sigma (LSS) training.

Next, the TMAC and Exactus teams worked closely with Knauf management to prepare a formal plan for the deployment of Lean Six Sigma. The plan combined best practices learned from over 20 years of implementing Continuous Improvement programs. First, the Knauf management team wanted to learn more about LSS. This was accomplished with a Champion & Sponsor Workshop which TMAC delivered in February 2019.

Parallel to this effort, Chris and Pedro worked closely with Mike Bonte (Director of Manufacturing Systems – Corporate), to finalize the candidates for LSS Black Belt and Green Belt training. They also chose projects for each belt at their respective facilities. Around this time Knauf hired Roldan Vazquez (Sr. Manager, Continuous Improvement), to lead the Continuous Improvement Program.

The group agreed on a plan to begin training in the Spring of 2019. Before each class, TMAC delivered a pre-class kickoff session to provide an overview of Lean Six Sigma. In the following week, TMAC and Exactus provided 1-on-1 project coaching for each belt candidate and their project sponsor.

The first wave of Black Belts began their training in April and ended in July of 2019. Russ and Alberto were the TMAC instructors. The first group of Green Belts, taught by Diana Martinez and Alberto, had training in August and October of that year.

After each class was completed, the belts participated in ongoing project coaching on a regular schedule (every three weeks), with one coach from TMAC and one from Exactus. Project work and coaching continued throughout 2020 despite the COVID-19 pandemic. Project teams were able to continue meeting and to solve problems at each Knauf facility.

The next wave of Black Belt and Green Belt training is planned for Spring 2021. These classes will expand the LSS Program outside Manufacturing into Supply Chain and other functional areas including Finance, IT, Sales, R&D and Marketing.

The Results

As of the end of 2020, the combined Lean Six Sigma project results included:

  • Increased efficiency leading to significant cost savings
  • Total of 29 people trained as belts (9 Black Belts and 20 Green Belts)
  • Development of a LSS culture including a steering committee and database of projects
  • Regular Leadership Updates & Dashboards
  • Improved Culture of being more Process and Data Driven
  • 33 LSS Projects Completed: 12 BB and 21 GB projects
  • 10 Big LSS Projects in the pipeline to Replicate in other Facilities


The partnership between Knauf North America, Exactus and TMAC has proven to be extremely successful in implementing a sustainable LSS program that impacts the bottom line of the business through highly engaged, highly skilled employees. Chris Lawson and Pedro Mendez have brought their many years of experience in implementing such a program in USG which has helped KINA avoid some of the pitfalls that many other companies have succumbed to. Choosing a partner with the experience and expertise in delivery with TMAC was critical, but also the Team Accelerator training and continued coaching through a number of projects has proven to be the secret sauce in our success.”

Iain JamesVP Manufacturing and Manufacturing Systems