James K. Franz has over 30 years of manufacturing experience and learned Lean as a Toyota Production Engineer in Japan. He started at the NUMMI plant in California, moved to Motomachi in Japan, and then supported the launch of Toyota’s $250 million paint facility in Kentucky.In 1993, Franz left Toyota to apply his Lean expertise at Ford Motor Company, beginning in production engineering. In 2000, he accepted a 3-year assignment at Ford of Australia and led their Stamping, Assembly, Casting, and Powertrain facilities to global leadership in Lean for Ford. During this time he also worked with Tier 1 and Tier 2 supplier plants in their transformation efforts. Upon his repatriation he then became a Lean advisor in Powertrain for global alignment of Lean practices.
Franz left Ford in 2004 to work with thirteen-time Shingo Prize-winning author Dr. Jeffrey Liker as a Senior Lean Consultant. In 2008 he partnered with Dr. Liker to co-found the Toyota Way Academy. His work has taken him to various companies around the globe including Bosch, the U.S. Air Force, Exxon Mobil, AMCOR, Android Industries, Applied Materials, Benteler Automotive, Case New Holland, Caterpillar, Chicago Metallic, Dakkota, Fisher Coachworks, Grand Rapids Chair, Henry Ford Health System, Hertz, JLG, MENLO Logistics, Rio Tinto, SAF Holland, Continental VDO, Visteon, and WABCO. Franz has guest lectured around the world as a recognized expert on Lean and Continuous Improvement Cultures.
Franz joined Michigan State University’s Broad College of Business in January of 2017 and is now the Managing Director of the Demmer Center for Business Transformation.
With a Bachelor of Science in Manufacturing Systems Engineering from General Motors Institute in Flint, Michigan, Franz completed a Master of Science degree in Engineering Management at the University of Michigan. He has collaborated as co-author with Dr. Liker on: The Toyota Way to Continuous Improvement – Linking Strategy and Operational Excellence to Achieve Superior Performance published (April 2011) by McGraw Hill. This book was awarded the industry’s highest award, the Shingo Prize for Operational Research, in May of 2012 and is currently being published in over ten languages.
Franz is a proud member of the Experimental Aviation Association as well as the Aircraft Owner’s and Pilot’s Association having earned his private pilot’s license in 1993 at Lexington’s Bluegrass airport.