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A True Story of Women Manufacturing Leaders and Lean Transformation

March 31, 2022

Source: Shannon Karels, Kathy Miller | OPSisters

“Do not judge another until you’ve walked a mile in their shoes” could have been an alternate title to this narrative of two women succeeding in a male-dominated industry by refusing to be anything other than themselves as women, professionals, and leaders.

Meet Kathy Miller, a female manufacturing executive responsible for a business’s profitability and all the lives that the company supports, and Shannon Karels, a high-potential female member of the leadership team. They professionally joined forces when Kathy hired Shannon to be a part of her divisional leadership team—responsible for a $75m operation with hundreds of team members at four locations in two countries.

Their new book, STEEL TOES AND STILETTOS: A True Story of Women Manufacturing Leaders and Lean Transformation Success (Routledge/Productivity Press, December 16, 2021) details how they developed a high-performing team and transformed multiple plants into a lean enterprise, with all the accompanying business performance improvements. It is also a story of friendship—how it grew from mere business acquaintances to a sisterhood.

Written from each of their perspectives—from an executive position with P&L responsibility and from the Lean leader responsible for the transformation—readers will learn techniques for improving results and engagement at any organization. Advocating that lean transformation and inclusive culture improve key performance metrics, the authors also show how it enables a work environment that is safe and drives value for the customer.

Miller and Karels can discuss numerous topics, including:

  • Overcoming organizational and cultural roadblocks
  • Implementing meaningful Lean Transformation
    • Understanding capacity
    • Supply chain / Material movement practices
    • Principles of productivity
  • Driving inclusivity in the workplace
  • Creating high performing teams
  • Women in leadership

STEEL TOES AND STILETTOS follows the transformation of a traditionally run batch operation to a Lean enterprise – characterized by authentic leadership and excellent business results – while detailing the professional challenges and triumphs over the three-year process and the endearing friendship that was formed along the way.

“Lean transformation is more than just about the techniques and tools,” states Miller. “It is about the people – connecting with them, engaging them and building trust to create a place where they flourish and business results become exceptional.”

All readers – men and women – can benefit from the adoption of the strategies and principles outlined in STEEL TOES AND STILETTOS.

Miller and Karels founded OPSisters, a training, consulting and coaching organization in 2020.  They work with companies, teams and individuals interested in improving business performance results through proven lean principles and inclusive cultures. 


Shannon Karels is a Senior Operations Manager who has led multiple lean transformations and run operations for two large publicly traded corporations across various industries and business models. She started her career in supply chain management and progressed through lean and operations leadership roles. Through this journey, Shannon has improved cultures in numerous manufacturing facilities by leading employee empowerment and engagement, and building highly successful teams, with a focus on business results. Shannon holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Supply Chain Management from Western Michigan University.

Kathy Miller is a Senior Operations Executive who has held numerous global vice president and director roles both in manufacturing and lean enterprise leadership. Kathy is a Shingo Prize Recipient for Large Businesses as a Plant Manager. She started her career in Operations as a 17-year-old co-op student at a vehicle assembly plant, and progressed through engineering, marketing, lean, and operations leadership roles, working for four large publicly traded corporations in executive roles. Kathy is a transformational leader who consistently delivers impressive business results through team development, process discipline, and continuous improvement. Kathy holds a Bachelor’s in Industrial Systems Engineering from Kettering University, MBA from Ball State University and a Master’s in Applied Positive Psychology from the University of Pennsylvania.  Kathy was inducted into the Women in Manufacturing Hall of Fame in 2021.


A True Story of Women Manufacturing Leaders and Lean Transformation Success

Shannon Karels, Kathy Miller

Routledge, Productivity Press


$39.95, Paperback

December 16, 2021

This UrIoTNews article is syndicated fromInternet of Business

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