THE BIRDS AND BEES OF LEAN MANUFACTURING

Has your parent company had “The Talk” with you? You know that sometimes awkward talk about Lean Manufacturing principles. Awkward because parent companies themselves have tainted and wasteful pasts and probably isn’t really practicing safe Lean even today.

Most companies from my experience fall in three categories.

1. Have “The Talk” continually but never relinquish the reigns of control to implement the teachings.

2. Have “The Talk” because it’s a good marketing bullet point plus they don’t want employees learning it on the street.

3. Have “The Talk” serious about implementation relinquished enough control for rank and file to operate only to have a disease flares up and stall progress.

THE LEAN TALK
Lean Manufacturing is simply a continuous improvement activity that seeks to remove all waste from the process. Lean solutions are common sense practices that should be woven into the moral fabric of your organization. Most larger organizations talk and train on this relentlessly. However culture change is difficult when it’s not organic.

CHOOSING A PATH FORWARD
Like most things corporate or governmental it (The Lean Talk) has to be named packaged and delivered in a sterile regimented and cookie cutter fashion normally delivered from an outsider. Implementation is oftentimes overly complicated with little room for variation. Without ability for each product to choose its own path or solution the parent oftentimes sets up an arranged solution.

BEWARE OF THE DISEASES OUT THERE
Before you head off and start practicing Lean Manufacturing on your own know there are many deadly diseases out there. In particular the seven outlined by W. Edwards Deming
the father of the third phase of the industrial revolution. Be sure to become familiar with them so you can properly diagnose the problem. This is normally not a part of your Lean Talk but take heed from Dr. Deming.

“A bad system will beat a good person every time.”

And guess what according to Deming management is the cause of the disease and only they have the power cure them. Know that Lean Manufacturing techniques will work beautifully in a healthy environment.

PROTECTION
Be sure to practice Safe Lean by knowing the dangers, headwinds, diseases, obstacle, obstructions, opportunities, roadblocks or whatever the latest term for stuff that stifles progress of your work. The Talk typically focuses on the theory of operating Lean in an environment free of the seven deadly diseases. But now you’re aware you can safely diagnose the situation prior to implementation and avoid wasting years in a fruitless continuous improvement cycle.

SAMPLE QUESTIONS TO ASK YOURSELF
Do you have the infrastructure to support your Lean Manufacturing goals, such as scalable, intuitive and modifiable ERP system?

Do you still focus on short-term goals such as monthly sales and inventory goals? If so which gets more priority the Lean implementation or the monthly quota?

Are their conflicting goals within your operational silo? One group needing smaller lots pitted against another group tasked to reduce price per part. Another group tasked to reduce total shipping costed pitted against the group that wants more frequent deliveries of smaller lots.

CONCLUSION
Nothing good can thrive in an unhealthy environment. If your beginning your Lean Journey in an organization wrought with chaos and contradiction you will fail miserably.
Begin your journey by listing W. Edwards Deming seven deadly diseases of management and identifying your shortfalls. This is where your Lean Journey should truly begin before you throw implementation over the fence to the rank and file.

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