The Missouri General Assembly has been out of session for a month, but state Rep. Noel Torpey, an Independence Republican, is having a busy off-season.

Not only is he leading one of the legislature’s committees looking into Medicaid issues and serving on a second one, he’s also touring the state to hear from small businesses.

“I’d love to meet with as many people as possible, just to get ideas,” said Torpey, who chairs the House Small Business Committee. He’s met with officials from Ford, and a few days ago he met with business leaders in St. Louis.

The aim is to get ideas for legislation in the 2014 session. Torpey said he’s not hearing any one overriding theme so far, but said, “The one positive: People are starting to feel that the economy is getting better.”

Coming soon

Opening updates:

• Blue Springs 8 Theatre, which had been under new management for several months, is having a grand opening on Thursday.
The eight-screen theater has new screens – all with digital presentations and improved sound – new seats and a new concession area.
Thursday’s ceremony is at 4 p.m. On Friday, Saturday and Sunday, 1 p.m. shows will be $5, 3D shows at 1 p.m. are $8. The theater is at 1901 N.W. Missouri 7.

• CVS is getting ready to open two new pharmacies in Eastern Jackson County. The store on Woods Chapel Road in Blue Springs opens in mid-August, and the store on 23rd Street just west of Crysler opens in late October, the company says.

Working smarter

How efficiently are you working?
Put another way, are you able to get a handle on how much time to do you spend on activities your customers actually pay you for, compared with time spent on everything else?

“That’s not easy for a lot of companies to do,” said Scott Brady, project manager for Missouri Enterprise, which works with manufacturers. He spoke on the Lean program last week at a meeting of the Independence Industrial Council.

It’s not unusual, he said, for companies to put 5 percent of their time in that first category, which he characterized as “value-added” efforts. Setting up a machine for a job, waiting for materials to arrive, attending meetings – all are necessary, all are part of being in business, but those aren’t direct value-added hours. The idea of Lean is to shift that ratio a good deal. A main focus is in eliminating what Brady called the “eight wastes” – product defects, overproduction, waiting, not utilizing employees, transportation, inventory, motion and excess processing. That can mean looking at plant’s layout, and it might bring into play programs such as the 5S System to reduce clutter, “total productive maintenance” and “point of use storage.”

Ultimately, it’s about continuous improvement of a company’s manufacturing process.

ATK’s Lake City Army Ammunition Plant in Independence is about 10 years into the Lean approach.

“For us, probably the biggest return is quality,” said ATK’s Ben Boone. He echoed Brady in that there is no set end point.

“Folks need to understand it is a journey,” Boone said.

Brady was just giving a lunch-hour overview. Usually presentations on Lean and more than a dozen other topics are a good deal more detailed. Missouri Enterprise is at and 800-956-2682.

Jeff Fox is The Examiner’s business editor and reporter. Reach him at 816-350-6313 or Follow on Twitter @FoxEJC.