Here on this blog we have discussed lean manufacturing, and why you should go for it. As per the post last week, vast majority of people go for lean to get cost effective systems followed by the pressure for shorter lead time. All of them can be valid reasons to go for lean manufacturing. But there are certain set of end results you should not have in your mind when you start your lean initiative. I thought it will be beneficial to list some of them.
1. To reduce number of heads from your organization
This is probably is the most misunderstood motive in lean. The logic behind this is that, if you increase your productivity with the lean initiative, you need lesser people to do the same amount of work carried out early. So you can operate with lesser number of workers. Seems to be right isn’t it. No it is wrong. If a lean manufacturer thinks like this they are missing one important piece to complete their lean house. That is the “respect for people”.
This shows you have not understood the concepts of lean. So starting point would be understanding these important concepts before even thinking about implementing lean. Lean talks about eliminating waste not people 🙂
2. To reduce costs and achieve efficiencies and profits over night
In today’s world people want instant results. If you want to implement lean today and if you are looking to get better efficiencies and higher profits the next day or even next month, I am sorry lean will not help you. As I highlighted in the last blog, most organizations will take at least 5 years in their lean journey to achieve world class stratus.
Lean is a journey not a jump. It needs time and continuous improvement. It is not a magic pill which will make all your dreams come true in the next day.
3. Because others are following and lean is the talk of the manufacturing world
It is good to learn from others. But if you copy them you will not go anywhere. Even if you copy from Toyota’s famous Toyota Production System (also known as TPS) and even if you are a car manufacturer you will not succeed. While concepts of lean can be applied in any context, whether it is manufacturing, service, office or even military, application is unique to the particular organization.
There is no single fit which will suite everyone. This is not an exception with lean. Unfortunately if you copy a lean implementation from anywhere else and fail you will go back few steps even from where you started. So please do not blame lean for creating chaos in your organization.
4. To use tools like SMED, Kaizen and Pokayoke
If you have heard about kanban, pokayoke, Kaizen and SMED and the increase in the results they bring to the others you might want to use them too. Yes these are great tools. They are simple yet mighty effective. They have re produced these results in different conditions in different implementations over and over again. But I can guarantee you will not achieve any of your intended results, just by using these tools.
To get the results you must understand the concepts behind using these tools. You have to use them in a way it will suit your organization. Otherwise using these tools will just be a burden on your organization.
If you ask me what is the single most important thing when it comes to lean, I would say without any doubt it is the understanding the concepts on which lean manufacturing is built upon. All the listed misuses of lean are due to the lack of understanding in these base concepts. Please take your time and understands the concepts before you try implementing lean.
If you have any addition to do to this list please leave your comments.
I was reading an interesting white paper titled “Extending the lean enterprise” by Aberdeen group some time back (you can download this for free by visiting this link). Some information on this whitepaper caught my attention, especially regarding what pressures drive lean manufacturing requirement.
According this research, most of the organizations (79%) are going for lean manufacturing to reduce overall operating cost of the organization. The distant second was pressure to achieve shorter lead times. This shows how much people believe in the ability of lean to reduce costs and improve their bottom lines. But interestingly this study also shows there is no single unique path followed by all these organizations to achieve these results. Most of these world class organizations have used their own ways in achieving these results although most of them are aligned with their common goal of reducing the cost. This is something important to note. As I always said throughout this blog there is no one single unique way to solve your problem, in other words a solution delivered perfect results to another organization will not be effective in your context.
Another important thing to note in this white paper is the time it has taken for lean followers to achieve world class results. Generally it has taken in excess of 5 years for lean followers to achieve truly world class performance. This means lean is no quick fix to your problem, but a shift over a period of time. You will climb the ladder with small steps over a period of time. Longer you go down your lean path, better you will get.
Most of the best performers of lean have extended their lean efforts away from manufacturing to other areas like procurement, sales and supply chain. Moving from lean manufacturing to lean enterprise is essential to achieve the best from lean. Manufacturing is only a tiny part of your value creation process. Lots of waste occurs outside manufacturing. Without solving these there is no way an organization can achieve world class performance.
Lean organizations according to this report are managed by people who understand the concepts of lean. In the days of TQM (Total Quality Management) quality is identified as a responsibility of management not entirely of the worker. Similarly it is very important for a lean organization to have a leadership who understand lean concepts and follow them. Managers will be working to achieve these lean objectives which will result in lower costs, lower lead times and higher quality. Workers will support the system by adding their suggestions in continuous improvement processes.
I really enjoyed reading this report. It was very informative. In fact I have sent the link for you to download this before. You can download this report for free by following this link.
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Automation is a word used with lean manufacturing constantly. Many lean followers seem to think automation is essential for the success in their lean journey. Yes, they are right. In the process of continuous improvement organizations can simplify their processes using automation. This can save extra effort and improve accuracy of work done.
A traditional organization can go for automation for several reasons. Among those reasons maximizing their capacities, reduction of errors in the process, stay in the cutting edge of technology and to replace some of the work force are few. Although automation can bring result in any of these instances in short term, in long term this can work against you if it is done without a clear objective.
Automation should be aligned to your organizational objectives. Automation for the sake of automation will not be of any use. For an example if you can complete a task with a worker for $10 a day with a satisfactory quality, is there a point of buying a $10,000 machine to carry out that task. I cannot answer that question, since it depends on your requirement. If you want a better control over your product quality, or if you want to smoothen the production flow perhaps it will make sense to automate that task. But if you are looking to save some cost or to be with the latest technology this might not help since it will not only require larger capital expenditure, it also requires trained people to use this machine, it requires maintenance and power.
In the lean context automation will be aligned to drive out waste from the process. Kaizen, or the continuous improvement might be the best way to automate tasks in a lean organization. This will not require huge amount of capital nor will it require experts to use the machinery. Simple step by automation is the way of making your system work. Toyota is well known for this type of automation. Generally in lean context automation is never done to get read of people. One of the main pillars of house of lean is the “respect for human”.
Automation can increase the efficiency of your process and increase the quality but if you do not build a good mistake proof mechanism into it, automation can become very dangerous. Mistakes will take place “automatically”. For an example you may automate purchasing process by sending purchase orders to your vendors automatically when you trigger the requirement for raw material. But you will end up with large inventory if existing raw material stocks are not properly maintained in the system due to some data maintenance error. It is important to understand while tightly automated system can make your system much more efficient, it can make your system venerable if all the exceptions are not taken care of and if pokayoke (mistake proofing techniques) is not followed.
One of my earlier post called “go for the simpler not for the perfect solution” caught attention of many. This suggested to me most of the organization think complex automation and software can solve their problems and they get into more trouble since they do not question their own processes and correct the problems. Remember automation will mean nothing if your process is not designed nor it requires this.