Lean Manufacturing Transformation – Leading the Change
Lean manufacturing offers the promise of higher productivity and less waste, all while using fewer resources. But, to get from where you are today to a lean operation takes time, focused effort, and dedication. The addition of the right technology to monitor and measure results also supports organization-wide change.
What Is Lean Manufacturing?
Lean manufacturing, a term first coined by those observing the Toyota production system in the 1990s, may also be referred to simply as “lean.” It’s a system of waste minimization and maximization of resources that uses increments of progress and an “inch wide, mile deep” approach to production that emphasizes intense focus and support on individual areas of the manufacturing process. As each area is addressed and potentially remediated, another area comes under scrutiny. The process is said to have revitalized Toyota and countless other manufacturing organizations and is now widely adopted by large-scale manufacturers, but it may also be used in small-scale companies with 1,000 or fewer employees. It’s a philosophy or an approach to manufacturing rather than a single process.
Transforming Manufacturing Culture
Transforming an existing manufacturing culture towards a lean model takes time and effort. First, it is essential for those leading the change to grasp the total concept of lean. If you plan to adopt the lean mindset, be sure that you understand all its nuances. It may help to visit a plant currently utilizing lean methods, take classes or courses, or read up on the concept.
When you are ready to begin a lean initiative in your company, keep the following tips in mind.
- Avoid using the term pilot or program: Both the terms pilot and program reflect a finite, we’re doing this and then we are done mindset. Lean isn’t about trying a system and then moving on to the next—it’s a sea change for your entire organization. Pilots tend to be treated as throw-aways or tests. Program may imply a start and an end. Lean never ends. It’s ongoing change and always working towards something better. You may not need to call the new approach anything other than making the changes themselves and letting the change speak for itself.
- Lead by example: You cannot expect workers to make significant changes in the way they approach their jobs if management maintains the status quo. Lead by example and practice what you preach.
- Offer a safe environment: Teams who have been working one way are now suddenly asked to work in a new, different way. Change can be upsetting. Create and build a safe environment for teams to learn. Expect mistakes in the way people enact the new approach. Teach through coaching and by example. Let people know that mistakes aren’t just tolerated as they implement the new methods but expected. (Mistakes are tolerated in the approach and implementation of lean but should be correct in the manufactured product itself.)
- Create a roadmap: It’s crucial to map progress and steps taken to implement lean. This way, the process itself becomes replicable. Without a roadmap, teams may flounder in their search for the next right step in the implementation process.
Technology Supports the Lean Mindset
You can’t change what you don’t measure. Enterprise resource planning (ERP) systems provide the data you need to measure critical markers of progress such as cost overruns, time to market, speed of delivery, and more. When you use the data from your ERP system, you’ll be able to focus and improve upon specific areas of your business. It’s the enactment of the lean mindset made easier through ERP.
Mindover Software has provided software solutions for manufacturing companies in Texas and all of the U.S. No matter what your requirements—make-to-stock, make-to-order, engineer-to-order, or process manufacturing—we can design a solution for you. For more information about manufacturing software solutions, please contact us or call 512-990-3994.