Ryan Riddle – Leading with Lean in Norwich

Jun 20, 2023

Given his surname, it seems Ryan Riddle was destined for a career rooted in problem solving – and that’s exactly how he is now making a name for himself in Unison’s Norwich, NY facility.

There is a strong lean ethos at Unison’s Norwich facility, and central to this is the moonshine shop where Ryan is located. Moonshine is a key lean process improvement tool to develop and prove concepts before they are fully implemented across the business.  These concept requests either come from employees or from the Lean team who attend daily stand ups and identify areas where they could alleviate production issues or mitigate safety concerns. Once these requests have made their way to Ryan in the moonshine shop as work orders, he then has the freedom to try storm various ideas before settling on an appropriate solution.

Ryan has always been very practical. He took carpentry classes at high school and college before leaving college to join the US Army. He served for three years before leaving active service for something closer to home which supported his growing family. After a handful of roles, most recently before Unison an EMT, Ryan jumped at the chance to join Unison when the opportunity arose.

That was five years ago. Since then, Ryan has worked across several different departments, including Maintenance, where he was able to closely observe the work of his lean technician predecessor. So when this colleague received an internal promotion six months ago, Ryan immediately applied for the role.

It was a great time to join the team. They had just finished putting down an epoxy floor and expanding the moonshine shop, which meant it was a complete blank canvas – nothing at that point was nailed down, so Ryan had a fantastic opportunity to slowly make the shop his own.

“Getting the shop up and running off my own back, with some support from the maintenance team, was one of my proudest career highlights to date,” says Ryan. You can hear his passion for the role when you speak with him. “I just love how creative I can be. To unleash the full potential of moonshine, you must fully embrace the methodology. Give yourself the time and freedom to be as creative as possible and, more importantly, not be afraid to fail. Testing, simulating, iterating different solutions is all part of the process – you learn by doing, and that gets to the heart of what I enjoy most about this role.’

Ryan is also passionate about integrating technologies into the moonshine shop. “If I had to pick just one, I would say the CNC routers are my favorite technology on site. They can engrave, cut, 3D print… the full extent of its capabilities is exciting for the future of moonshine. It’s incredibly mesmerizing to watch!”

Other key projects from the last six months including building carts which allowed sensors to be safely transported between departments and creating foam inserts to better optimize the space available and protect the parts.

“Unison’s Norwich facility is a truly special place,’ says Brandon Lawson, site lean leader, ‘and that comes down to the people who work here. Ryan is a shining example of a Norwich employee who turns up every day to do their best for the business, and for the customer. I’m so proud to have him as part of the team.”

Ryan has achieved so much in the past 6 months alone. So what’s next? “I’m really enjoying the here and now so honestly haven’t thought too much about this yet. In the short to medium term, I want to learn more and do more to better service my colleagues on the shop floor and, ultimately, our customers.”

And we think you’re off to a flying start, Ryan.