Lean is a set of tools and a philosophy that seeks to continually reduce waste in your processes. It was created as part of the Toyota Production System and its initial focus was manufacturing. However, Lean Thinking is now integral to all companies’ operations, whether they are manufacturing products, warehousing and distributing, or providing services. The key to successfully implementing Lean is be proficient in the use of Lean Tools, being adept at change management and managing Lean Kaizen Events or Lean Projects. This is why you need more than manufacturing consulting firms or Lean manufacturing consultants as your partner. Your Lean consulting partner should understand the application of Lean for many types of processes (manufacturing, distribution, service, healthcare, financial services and more), and how Lean affects the people in your company, your suppliers and customers.
The only way you will achieve sustainable and measurable improvements from Lean, is to create a Lean Culture. However, it is very difficult to change a company’s culture. Lean Cultures are formed from the persistent, disciplined and patient application of change management, employee involvement and a
Only by making an investment in your employees will you benefit from the implementation of Lean over the long run.
commitment to learning. Lean may be implemented in short-term events or projects, but it takes years and even decades to become a truly Lean company. Employees must be part of the Lean implementation process, see how Lean is creating measurable value, must know they will benefit from the implementation (and not lose their jobs) and be educated in Lean methods.
Lean Tools & Lean Education
While Lean is a philosophy, it is also a set of very specific tools. If you choose to partner with a Lean consulting company they should help you choose which tools to apply to specific processes and/or to solve certain problems. These tools include kanban materials management, flow/cellular manufacturing, spaghetti maps, quickchangeover, 5S visual management, process flow mapping, value stream mapping, total productive maintenance, and mistake proofing. In addition, some tools often associated with Six Sigma, Pareto analysis and cause-and-effect diagrams, should also be included in the toolkit. To help your team use these tools, you should provide Lean education, including a Lean overview for everyone in your company as well as Lean Champion Training for the people leading your Lean transformation.
Lean can be implemented in a number of different formats, but they all include the following five steps: 1) Understand the Current State, 2) Identify non-value-added steps, 3) Determine how to eliminate non-value-added steps, 4) Create the Future State, and 5) Build a sustainment plan.
Lean can be implemented as a point kaizen (usually 1 day), a kaizen event (usually one week) or a Lean Project (one to three months). The choice depends on the scope. Many Lean companies use the Kaizen format of one to five day events. These events focus on a small scope and make sure the impact in this small area is large. However, where the Lean improvement is in a larger work area or a process that crosses multiple departments the Lean Project format may be better for ensuring that the current state is completely understood and that buy-in exists across all departments for the proposed future state design.