If you ran your business for a long time or if you are working on your role for a long time you know how to operate it, right? But why do you want to become lean then? Probably because you know you can do better, or because you know other organizations are doing great with lean techniques. Whatever the reason may be, you have to start somewhere.
In the lean journey, I have no doubt you should start from understanding the principles and concepts of lean. This is the part most of you are comfortable with. But when it comes to implementation, what is the most important thing to do? Where you should begin? Is it 5S, or is it visual concepts? I would say, you are partially correct. 5S is a good starting point, but only if you are prepared to do one thing. This one thing will improve your results dramatically. What is this important thing you should have to multiply the results of your lean efforts?
You should be comfortable in challenging the existing processes. You should be able to question the existing processes and find out why these practices are there. And you should be fearless to challenge them.
Most of the times processes evolve with the problems and challenges they face. Most of the solutions found for those challenges are just to solve the problem in hand, generally not thinking about the effect of the solution on the entire process. By adding change after change to the startup process, the process becomes much more complex. People generally forget the end goal in this process.
Let me give you an example. Most the fabrics used to make garments today are woven. Weaving is a practice which was there for thousands of years. The basics of the process have not changed much. I have visited few fabric mills(modern ones), and found how much of a waste they have introduced to the system just by taking issues one by one and finding solutions to each, not taking the entire process into consideration. Below is one of my observations.
When the yarns are not strong enough, they break while moving through the metallic parts of the weaving machine. The solution was to put a some coating on top of the yarn so that, it will gain some strength and will be able to solve the problem in hand. But when it comes to the next step of fabric processing, which is dyeing, this same coating gives tons of problems. So they have to remove it with high-tech machinery and chemicals and clean the yarn to the original status to apply dye material evenly on the yarn.
If you think lean, instead of trying to coat something over the yarn, you will try reducing the tension created on the machine or you will try making the yarn stronger in making the yarn itself. This will not only save lots of money wasted in making, coating, removing this coat, it will also save time, energy and precious resources like water. It will be much more environmentally friendly in operation.
Just think about all the documentation you handle day to day. Do you think all those signatures and papers or emails necessary? I certainly think we should be able to cut down all these at least by 50%. Most of these processes and documents are there not to help the entire process nor there to help the end result but just to save someone from “possible future problems”. I can go on listing. Just have a look at your processes. Ask the question yourself. You will see a completely new world of opportunities unfolding in front of you. Tools like 5 Why
, Process Mapping and Value Stream Mapping
will come handy in this process.
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