From Vision to World-Class Business: Living the Principles, Using the Tools at DragonMead Brewery

  • Friday, January 24, 2014
  • 1:00 PM - 4:30 PM
  • DragonMead Microbrewery 14600 E. 11 Mile Rd, Warren, MI 48089
  • 3


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This GEMBA walk may be a one-of-a-kind event for the MLC. Join us in touring the DragonMead Brewery on Friday, January 24, 2014. This award-winning business is the result of the determination and commitment of a highly skilled and visionary leadership team. 

Larry Channel, an expert in the field of continuous improvement, and mentor to many Lean practitioners will share the DragonMead story from its inception to present day. See and hear how lean principles and tools have been included in the daily operations, product development and customer service in their thriving business. 

Introduction to Topic:

The decisions you make years before your new company is fully operational helps determine if it will survive.  Every step along the way adds a chance of failure.

Just how do you “know” what will happen years in advance, how do you plan to address it and how do you keep it going once it’s in place?

This is a case of a company designed along lean principles and how we “knew” years in advance how our product line volumes would look, how our competitors would change and that we could survive.

Speaker Bio:

Larry began a working career in a small prototype Electro Plating plant while in high school.  He continued working there through college (MSU ’76 Chemistry).  After college he began a corporate career at Chrysler (in his minor, data processing, not Chemistry).  In his early time at Chrysler he earned a Masters from CMU in business through their extension programs.

Always in search of new challenges Larry worked his way up through a host of operations areas from Trainee thru Department Manager and beyond.  In literally each of these areas he was called on to implement whatever new process improvement was being pushed but was generally ignored by his overworked peer group.  This included implementing:

  • New and quicker programming languages
  • Large scale systems development methodologies
  • Corporate Quality Improvement
  • Corporate Process Improvement
  • Kaizen
  • Six Sigma
  • Corporate Visioning

The key in each according to Larry was to achieve some success quickly.  The quicker any improvement is in place the sooner the lives of everyone involved improves.  Begin with yourself and the people who report to you.  As soon as you achieve a workload reduction take the people/hours freed up and put it into the next project immediately.

Throughout his corporate career Larry was always searching for a business to begin.  The goal was to develop a business that would have the opportunity to survive for multiple generations.  After rejecting a number of potential industries he ended up starting Dragonmead Brewery in 1997.

While preparing to leave Chrysler for full time in brewing he was asked if he would take on one more task before leaving.  That task was working with various Hospitals and Insurance companies to vastly reduce the time a patient must spend before being treated.  He stayed on a few more years but on April Fool’s day of 2001 he retired and spent the last 12 years at the brewery.

Dragonmead is the world’s highest variety brewery and winner of five medals in the World Beer Cup.  The World Beer Cup is like the Olympics.  Every brewery can compete and it’s held every other year.  Dragonmead also holds the record for the highest volume nano brewery in the world with a volume five times higher than the second highest nano brewery.  With the tiniest system in the state it still produces in the top 10% volume wise of all 139 state breweries. 

In November of 2013 Dragonmead added a second brew system seven times bigger than the original and left the ranks of nano brewery.

Larry is an avid boater sailing over 180 times in 2013 including his annual Thanksgiving sail through the ice.  He’s also a member of The Players theater group writing plays and acting (think Monty Python as you see the picture), and the Detroit Racquets Club (playing the game of racquets is like hitting a golf ball with a tennis racquet in a concrete room).  Other associations include being the Fleet Captain for Sail at the Grosse Pointe Yacht Club and the President of the Sociable Scoundrels.


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