Lean manufacturing can seem like a straightforward and intuitive concept, however, there are certain challenges to overcome and certain guiding principles that need to be understood before it can be achieved at the organisational level. Failure to implement the right strategies to achieve this and improper preparation can have negative consequences over the long term. This article will discuss a few of the most important concepts that underpin a successful Lean enterprise and can help provide you with the foundation you need to succeed.
The Lean concept is based on the principle of continuous improvement, which needs to be a priority across all aspects of the organisation from the efficiency of processes to the final product or service offered up to the customer. This mindset that things can always get better is crucial in order to meet organisational goals; seeking. Every decision, big or small, should be working towards this in some way.
One of the most important Lean principles – and one that is imperative in order for an organisation to improve – is to reduce or eliminate wastefulness and ensure that every process in the delivery of the service to the customer provides real value to that customer. Waste is essentially defined as efforts on the part of an organisation in the delivery of their product that fails to add to the customer’s experience of the product. There are various categories of wastefulness at the organisational level, including overproduction, production of defects, waste of unnecessary motion and waste of waiting, just to name a few. Measuring waste is necessary in order to eliminate it.
According to Lean thinking, under or overproducing is undesirable and represents some lost opportunity. Either too much is produced or not enough is produced, which can lead to customers being unsatisfied. The Levelized production concept puts forward the idea that workload should be consistent and equal from one day to the next.
Rather than waiting for orders before producing, or trying to predict how many orders will come in and produce according to your forecast, lean organisations focus on building what is required at the time it is required, facilitating processes that allow this to happen. Obviously, this can be a challenge and levelled production is all about looking at the past, forecasting for the future and investing in a system that works towards enabling the production of products or services only when needed.
Maintain Strong Relationships with Workers
Lean principals emphasise the importance of the workers to an organisation and how they need to be looked after, respected and felt to be valued. Often referred to as having a ‘respect for humanity’, this philosophy makes for a particular type of management style where workers are praised and encouraged and where communication between workers and management is a made a priority.
The idea here is that if the company respects its workers, the workers will respect the company, embrace what the company is trying to do on a macro level and be in a better position to work towards company goals.
The literature and ideas on Lean philosophy are quite involved, so there are a great many principles in addition to the fundamental ones we have discussed here. Some of these include Building Quality In, Deferring Commitment and Optimise the whole. For more information about lean manufacturing and other lean concepts, there are many resources available online.