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5 Steps into Lean Manufacturing

There are a number of models out there for the implementation of Lean manufacturing. In here you will see my take on that knowing that it all lied under the capabilities and drive of your leadership team.

In case they come to you for guidance here is a quick overview. If you wish an even quicker version, all I can offer is those few slides. Your pick!

its for them, not for you. ok?


It all starts with WHY!

What do you want to do this?

Is this because customers are demanding it from you?

Is it because you are losing competitiveness as your competition is learning how to produce more efficiently for a high variety of models?

Is it because cash is limited and costly and you need to lower your cash flow needs?

Is it because you can no longer attract talents as people prefer to work for others where their participation seams more appreciated?

If you want to go far go together

Do you have your staff on board or you still need to address their fears. Have you addressed "what's in it for me" for all of them? Are you ready to remove the thorns that cay come in the way of your team? Do you anticipate them? Then do it now!

Get Help

You and your staff have an operation to run and this is going to take a tall on you all. Why not rely on some help, some coaching that will speed the learning process, will show you some best practices, will train and guide your team, will be your eyes and ears so you can be in more places at one, and will prepare you to jump in and be as effective as you should.

Get money

Sorry for the bad news but you need to invest in order to collect. You will be needing money for guidance, training and maybe some key hiring (even though investing in developing your people seams a better choice, overall). You need to spend on boards, office supplies, but also on layout changes, machine adjustment, tooling etc etc etc...

Get Help

No, this is another type of help. Get a Core team or a project management office. Someone that can run the project, reporting to you directly, ideally look for your team, look for someone that is a good natural leader, that is consistent and perseverant . Help develop some analytic skills along with strong communication capabilities and you found a candidate internally. Now you just need to devote your time and the time of you help to coach him/her.


You cannot improve what you cannot measure

Decide on how you are going to measure successes and progress. What is that you want to accomplish and how that is turned into a number. What is that needs to happen and how can it be measured:

These are what we call lagging and leading indicators. The first may be productivity or lead time, and the second may be workshops or projects competed with success.

Determine how and how often you will be checking for progress and success.

Communicate, communicate and communicate

Get on your char and raise your voice loud. Tell everyone what your vision is and how you expect them to be on board. Tell them to expect and some (not all) pain and lots, lots of uncertainty. Make everything public. Post walls, create a newsletter, schedule open hours, do long gemba walks. Set an obeya room! Start with an awareness training so the challenge they are seeing gets framed and the terminology becomes known.

Create a road map...more visual than this one, I hope

Know your way. Plan for the calendar year. Focus on mobilization from top-down and set initiatives for your staff in support of the program, try Hoshin Kanri methodology for that, if it helps. Then focus on the gemba and get awareness training done and then invest in setting up the sustainability tools (After all you do not start driving without checking your gears). Once that is done you can start breaking it into value streams and focus on flow within each one.

Rely on training

See training not as a vehicle for delivering the knowledge but as an incentive for participation. With each training, event creates a project that delivers a return of investment as a side benefit from the consolidated knowledge. Break training into small pieces so execution is done in parallel. Create a reward for completing training AND implementation. Make it a big thing.


Stability first

You have enough of that from customers and outside environment to be adding some more. Make the team stable with their assigned projects. Create solid routines for everyone that can be tracked: gemba walks cascade of meetings throughout the organization (yes, including the shop floor groups). Contain areas that are not mature or are facing significant change...they can come after. Delegate shop floor management to shop floor people investing in works place organization (and 5S), Visual Management and standardized work. Audit adherence systematically.

Man, Machine and Materials

Make a checklist: are teams stable now? How reliable are the pieces of equipment? How quickly do we bring them back to speed what they break down? Should we look at Preventive maintenance, participative maintenance (TPM) ? or should we simply look for leaner pieces of equipment?

Same for materials. Do we face part shortages, then why, is it internal or external. Fix it as you are moving into a lot less safety nets. Be aware!

Problem-solving at problem arising

Finally, continue to empower teams at the shop floor making sure they master the use of PDCA and other problem-solving tools to address and fix the issues they observe.


Put stability to check

With what you have done so far you must now have a mature shop floor, ready to adjust to change and quickly sustain new realities. This might have taken you more than a year, I know...I'm not trying to make it look easy... but you collected benefits form it, I am sure. Its time to raise the bar! its time to destroy the stability you have created. Its time for Projects!

Manage Value Streams

Identify your value streams and name value stream managers that will no follow indicators that address flow of value: customer satisfaction, lead time, inventory turns, throughput, first-time quality...Run Value Stream Map workshops and create a portfolio of projects. Grab your indirect employees to support this change while leaving the shop floor engaged but supporting operations as their first priority.

Select a pilot area to contain risk, test solutions and dismantle pessimism. Create a model where standards can be developed to be later spread.

Focus on flow! trust the process by creating one-piece flow in as many slices of the value stream as possible and connect the ones that you cannot. Do not forget that value streams are complex systems where Man, Machine, Materials and Information have to flow in harmony.


One for all and all for one

Engage the support areas understanding their customer lies in the gemba and their own value proposition and wasteful operations that need to be leaned out as well. Run projects in accountant as much as in the manufacturing floor. Look at the flow of value to the customer. Use the same principles of JIT and JIDOKA as they also apply. Recreate tools to support their needs of stability, of improvement

Get out there

Expand your efforts to your close partners; Involve your suppliers in improving the overall value chain. Remember the customer at your gemba and find ways to further support the operations while helping your suppliers become also more competitive for the advantage of both.

Engage with customers in solving problems, manage demand and share program benefits. Show your competitiveness and flexibility and accept an increase in demand.

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