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Investment into Lean training during COVID-19 pays dividends for Wood Stone Corporation

Company Profile

Based in Bellingham, Washington, Wood Stone Corporation is a leading manufacturer of high-quality commercial cooking equipment, including stone hearth ovens, rotisseries, charcoal grills, and more. With a commitment to innovation, sustainability, and customer service, Wood Stone has provided exceptional products and services to the food service industry for over 30 years. Wood Stone's equipment is used by top chefs and operators in restaurants, hotels, offices, school campuses, and other food service establishments in the US and worldwide.


In mid-2019, Impact Washington, in partnership with Whatcom Community College, was preparing to deliver a series of in-person training sessions focused on new product development, supply chain management, Training Within Industry (TWI), and continuous improvements. COVID-19 forced Wood Stone Corporation to put these programs on hold.

In June 2020, Impact Washington was introduced to the newly hired VP of Engineering and Operations, Fred Gapasin. After Fred had an opportunity to review his operational needs, he reengaged with the proposed projects introduced by Impact Washington and the college. Fred and the team observed that Wood Stone had embarked on a Continuous Improvement journey in the past, but it was less successful than they would have liked. The lack of success was for several reasons, but they decided to try again. This time under Fred's leadership, they created a roadmap to determine where they wanted to go and how they would get there. It became clear to the leadership team that if they were going to meet their objectives, they would need to build improved skills in their group.


Utilizing Washington's incumbent worker program, Impact Washington partnered with Whatcom Community College and provided key employees with Lean Enterprise Certification Program (LECP) training. Lean Enterprise Certification is a program created by the Society of Manufacturing Engineers (SME). It provides Lean training and experience to those who participate to become "Lean Champions" for their companies. 

The LECP Program was a great starting point for Wood Stone Corporation in their continuous improvement journey as employees learn the common language of lean as they draw the current state map for Wood Stone, analyze that current state, find the non-value-added activities, and draw a future state map that eliminates unnecessary activities and waste.

Washington's Job Skills Program is a wage-match program that helped Wood Stone Corporation offset the cost of providing LECP training to their staff and meeting their needs. Impact Washington employee and Continuous Improvement Specialist Sarah Stuart delivered the LECP training remotely. Wood Stone employees acquired the skills that allowed them to successfully facilitate improvements on their own. One participant significantly reduced the non-value-added steps in their bill of materials (BOM) creation process. This process is critical because Wood Stone’s business model provides efficient and effective product fulfillment of customized solutions. 


  • Training started a foundation of continuous improvement efforts.
  • Identified Wood Stone value streams and their KPIs; implemented visual factory tools to provide more comprehensive KPI visibility.
  • Improved average customer on time delivery performance from 60% to +90%.
  • Converted from batch to one-piece flow to meet increased demand from a significant customer; improved output >200% in three months with no added factory resources.
  • Incorporated increased concurrent engineering in the development of a new Wood Stone product launching in 2023.
  • Implemented waste reduction boards; within the first nine months, production teams identified, approved and implemented 44 “muda” reduction items that covered all eight waste categories.
  • Employees share a common language around continuous improvement.

"After a few attempts at implementing a continuous improvement journey, we determined it was necessary to begin again. This time we concentrated first on building the skill set of our team. We engaged Impact Washington to provide continuous improvement overview and lean champion training. Both pieces of training have allowed us to embed the concepts of continuous improvement into the muscle memory of Wood Stone. We were further behind because we had yet to do this type of training. It has and continues to be a part of our supportive culture, one of four key sections of our Operational Maturity Roadmap that set the stage for where we need to go."  Fred Gapasin, VP Engineering and Operations