Lean is said to be the “Machine that Changed the World,” which a fantastic book written by Jim Womack, Dan Jones and Daniel Roos. According to Wikipedia, “Lean manufacturing or lean production, often simply “lean“, is a systematic method for the elimination of waste (“Muda“) within a manufacturing system.” We are now learning that Lean has applicability across far more industries than just manufacturing such as healthcare, finance, education, and many others. However, implementing lean has been a major challenge for business leaders across all sectors, including manufacturing. A study released by McKinsey stated that “70% of Continuous Improvement initiatives fail”. This is a striking statistic considering how popular Lean and other Continuous Improvement initiatives are.
If you go into any of those factories where Lean has failed (and even some where it has succeeded), you’ll quickly find that it generally leaves a bad taste in people’s mouths. Be it because some companies have gutted workforces and administrative jobs under the guise of Lean or that people had to give up things that they held sacred in the name of cutting waste…many people harbor a disdain for Lean. How did an initiative designed to improve product and process quality turn into such a reviled and despised creature?
In conducting and studying many examples of Lean implementations I’ve determined that three key ingredients are needed for success. Those ingredients are:
- Technical Expertise. Lean isn’t that hard to learn but somebody needs to know what they’re doing in the beginning at least. This could be an inside or outside person or group. Eventually, everyone needs a strong lean competency and it needs to become a requirement for staying with the company or getting promoted
- Commitment. Leaders need to visibly show their commitment and make decision consistent with a Lean culture.
- Motivation. If the people at the top or bottom don’t want to do it – it won’t happen. A Lean implementation requires substantial changes in behaviors, the slaughter of sacred cows, and debilitating power struggles. It’s not easy for anybody.
In all reality, the last item trumps the previous two. Let’s face it, people will eventually do what they’re motivated to do as long as management gets the heck out of the way. Do you really need an engineering degree to do 5S or make a few changes to reduce waste and inefficiency? The answer is no. So …the easy way to implement Lean is by pairing the implementation with things people are motivated to do such as:
- Look good in front of their bosses and peers
- Get recognized for a job well done
- Compete and win
- Have input on the way things are done
- Prove themselves by getting results
- Be judged fairly
- Help others
- Be a valued contributor to the business
- Remain gainfully employed
- …the list goes on and on.
So, to implement Lean, you need to motivate people to eliminate waste and be more efficienct; then give them the tools and support to do what they will be super-motivated to do. To do this, follow these steps:
Step 1 – Implement OEE. This will tell you and everyone else exactly how much efficiency loss you have, what types of losses you have, and where the biggest opportunities for improvement exist, etc. OEE will serve as your scoreboard for how good everybody actually and undoubtably is. It also puts everyone on the same playing field in terms of measuring productivity. [Week 1 – 8 but continue tracking perpetually]
Step 2 – Start highlighting success stories for people doing things better. Share Personal Records, Record Breaking Weeks for the team, Best-Practices, Top Performers for the Day or Week, and so on. This will create a culture that feels like winning…and send a message that winning means getting better, which means…increasing efficiencies. All of a sudden, getting better is starting to feel “good” and perhaps even “fun and exciting”. [Week 6 – 15 but continue into perpetuity]
Step 3 – Provide a continuous stream of tools and techniques for getting better. Teach people root cause analysis, value stream mapping, SMED, kaizen events and anything else they are clamoring to know by this point in the process. You should also consider taking engineers, managers, and key personnel to other factories who have a really good Lean program so they can benchmark ideas. These factories love to show off the great work they’ve done to implement what a vast majority of companies struggle with. [Week 10 on]
That’s it. Pretty easy right? Well there are always varying levels of depth and complexity of tools that can be applied but you can cross those bridges when you get to them. It’s important to follow these three steps in sequence and allow time for each step to take hold in the organization. Most companies try to implement lean by doing step 3 and then step 1 or they just start of with a massive cutting of headcount. Implementing OEE is not as easy as this article makes it sound and neither are the other 2 steps. Fortunately there’s a tool that virtually automates the first 2 (and most difficult) steps called the Factory Operating System (fOS) at www.factoryoperatingsystem.com. This is the best tool out there for implementing Lean or any other Continuous Improvement initiative. In this system, calculating and tracking OEE requires less than a minute per production run to input data and it spits out OEE by line, shift, person, team, product, timeframe, or any other way you want to slice it. It also highlights top performers, record breaking weeks, personal records, and other success stories across your operations chain of command. It’s super-powerful and it’s free, which makes it really great!
Implementing Lean can be a great step toward reducing operating costs, increasing capacity, reducing lead time, improving product quality among many other wonderful things. Don’t make the mistakes most companies make by failing to motivate your people before slamming them with tools, jargon, and complex ideas that will just scare them away. Let the motivation come first, then they will be a) creating their own tools and b) asking you for more tools and techniques to get their systems to operate more efficiently. This way you create a demand for Lean instead of pushing it on people and creating a painful experience for everyone that probably won’t even sustain results. A manufacturing efficiency expert such as those at Manuficient can help you to implement Lean in a non-abrasive way that systematically encourages your people to do better everyday.
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