How To Prepare Your Business For Lean Manufacturing

It seems that every manufacturing company is now trying to adapt the Lean Philosophy that was invented and mastered by Toyota Corporation.

Unfortunately, many of them don’t understand the true meaning of Lean Manufacturing. Lean Manufacturing, simply put, is continuously improving your processes to eliminate waste. This sounds simple, but many companies will fail to become truly Lean because they don’t have the right environment.

Lean is not only a set of tools, it is also a culture. If a company has severe issues with employee turnover, employee morale, product quality, product delivery, and equipment uptime etc., it will be extremely difficult to shift the employees to a new way of thinking and conducting business.

In other words, if your employees are in constant firefighting mode, they will not be able to properly implement the Lean methodology.

Value Your People

Society generally refers to companies as entities; however, they are simply groups of people. Toyota doesn’t build cars, its employees do.

To develop the Lean culture as successfully as Toyota has, companies must first realize that they have to nurture and value their employees, because in order to build a culture of people wanting to continuously improve, they have to be engaged in their jobs.

They have to feel valued by the company, and believe they are noticed and rewarded for their contributions. Ultimately, the company has to value having low employee turnover to create consistency. A company with high employee turnover cannot maintain a successful Lean environment.

To foster this type of environment in today’s business world isn’t easy.

Sometimes, there is low loyalty between companies and their employees – perhaps when companies look at employees as an expense rather than an asset, which can be easily cut. But if employees of a business do not feel the company values them, they will find other jobs, and employee turnover will rise.

This makes it more difficult to implement a long-term Lean strategy, as this requires an engaged, loyal, and consistent work force.

Develop And Retain Strong Leaders

Good managers are coaches, poor managers are dictators!

A good manager will believe in the team concept, where every member of the team – from senior managers down to the construction site security guard – is important and his/her opinions are valued. A good manager will value his/her employees and realize that for him/her to be successful, the team has to be successful.

By contrast, a poor manger will dictate to his/her employees, which creates havoc!

Poor managers fail because they lack the leadership skills, people skills, communication skills, decision making skills, and delegation skills necessary to develop and maintain effective teams.

A strong leader must sell the Lean Strategy and realise that ultimately the employees are the ones to make it happen.

Think And Act World Class (Even If You’re Not There Yet!)

To become Lean is to become World Class.

When walking into a facility that has an unclean, unorganized work environment, you will know you haven’t walked into a World Class facility. If a plant is World Class, it looks World Class as soon as you walk into the door.

A Lean facility is thoroughly organized. Every process is clearly defined via standards. Production is operated via very clear Visual Management. The ambient temperature should be kept pleasant by air conditioning and proper ventilation.

Keeping a work area clean and organized is simple; however, many companies overlook this simple task.

Make Decisions Based On Logic And Not Politics

Most of the time, decisions made by senior management are implemented without others questioning if the decisions make sense or not.

Too often, decisions are made by senior management who don’t fully understand the process, and implemented by lower-level managers who do not believe in the ideas. This can create numerous problems which makes enacting Lean Strategies difficult.

Decisions should be made throughout the organization by effective communication.

Senior management should not just mandate, but should have to sell their ideas and be open to questions and suggestions from lower-level managers. Additionally, senior managers should fully understand the relevant issues and processes by effectively communicating with their colleagues at different levels.

To properly enact Lean methodology, whenever possible, major decisions should be made as a team, rather than by an individual.

So remember – team work makes Lean work!

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