Maria Elena Stopher

Maria Elena Stopher

Principal & Owner
Ultimate Lean, Inc.

Ms. Stopher is a management consultant with over 16 years of experience in applying lean concepts to a variety of organizations.  Her areas of expertise include lean assessments, implementation, training, strategy deployment, leadership, and tools (5S, value stream mapping, total productive maintenance, pull systems, and more).  With a proven ability to strategically analyze and capitalize on business, product, and growth opportunities, she has a track record of developing and executing strategic and tactical solutions that have markedly improved competitive performance for numerous businesses and government organizations.

As owner and principal of Ultimate Lean Inc., Ms. Stopher works with diverse groups of change agents, motivators, and team builders to streamline processes and optimize performance.  Her clients include the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), U.S. Department of Agriculture, U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Atlantic Management Center, Perdue Farms, Pactiv (Hefty Bag), Astra Zeneca, Dade Behring, and ILC Dover.

Prior to founding Ultimate Lean Inc., Ms. Stopher served as manager of the National Lean Initiative of NIST in Maryland, where she was responsible for the development of a national strategy to deploy Lean Enterprise training across the U.S. to over 2,000 engineers and thousands of businesses.  She designed and managed the curriculum development, training, and deployment strategy; coordinated seven nationally-recognized lean training courses and a series of implementation events; and created and led a national lean network of engineers.

Previously, as vice president of Product Development at the Lean Enterprise Institute, Ms. Stopher organized workshops and developed training materials and curricula.  As director of the National Lean Initiative, U.S. Dept. of Commerce, she was responsible for the first national U.S. government-sponsored program to introduce and implement lean principles into U.S. manufacturers’ operations to improve their global competitiveness.

As engineering manager at Danaher Motion (formerly American Precision Industries) in Buffalo, New York, Ms. Stopher successfully used Pre Production Preparation (3P) and Design for Manufacturability, Assembly, and Leanability tools to dramatically reduce overall product cost and bring offshore business in-house.  Earlier in her career, Ms. Stopher served as a manufacturing engineer for Xerox Corporation, where she used lean principles and tools to design remanufacturing lines, tooling, and equipment to meet quality, cost, delivery, and service targets.

Ms. Stopher’s recognitions include the U.S. Department of Commerce Bronze Medal Award for outstanding leadership in developing unique lean manufacturing training opportunities for all centers in the Manufacturing Extension Partnership’s nationwide system.  She has been a featured speaker for events at the Kellogg School of Business, MIT, George Washington University, the Industry for Industrial Engineers, and the Association for Manufacturing Excellence.


MBA in Operations Management, State University of New York at Buffalo, Buffalo, New York
B.S. in Mechanical Engineering, State University of New York at Buffalo, Buffalo, New York