Table of Contents
Chapter 1 The Basic Flaws and Misconceptions About Lean
Chapter 2 As A Plant’s Equipment Goes, So Goes Lean
Chapter 3 Accepting The Need For Change
Chapter 4 Setting the Stage
Chapter 8 Examining Level One Lean In Closer Detail
Chapter 6 The Search for Greatness
To a large degree, Lean Manufacturing in the United States has been slow off the starter’s block and has gradually shifted to a cost-based process, hidden under the guise of continuous improvement. This leaves an important question to ponder: Does America choose to use Lean to its fullest and significantly enhance our competitive position in the world, or do we continue to focus on the low hanging fruit, in lieu of rejecting the primary mission of the process?
Although there are many types of Lean methodology on the market, each with its own particular slant about how to go about the process, they all incorporate the tools and techniques founded in the Toyota Production System. Thus, the issue isn’t which method is the best. The issue is clearly understanding how to go about sound implementation strategy and where, when, and how to apply the tools to a company’s best advantage.
If we look closely at what’s transpiring with Lean across the United States, what we typically find are islands of improvement that dot an ocean of waste and inefficiency. Such results simply will not take us far enough (and fast enough) to stem the growing tide that is currently serving to erode the U.S. manufacturing base.
The ideal situation, of course, is when leaders recognize that the need for Lean is so great they’re willing to set aside other initiatives until the task is fully and successfully accomplished at a factory level. Because this type of commitment is seldom, if ever, the case, we have to look at how to go about implementing Lean in the least disruptive and most effective manner. In order to make this happen, we have to get past the growing mindset that strives to implement the process through small incremental improvements. Instead, we must begin to focus on a larger objective -which is to make a full and complete transition across the entire production arena and the general supply chain.
Within the past five years, a growing trend has been placed on incorporating Six Sigma, a methodology developed by Motorola in the mid 1980s. This methodology was initially aimed at improving product quality by identifying and correcting variations in processing. But the truth of the matter is although Six Sigma is a good tool which can often provide solid results, it simply isn’t what Lean Manufacturing needs as a driving strategy. In fact, in many ways, it has served to place focus on absolutely the wrong strategy. In a 2008 article from the Six Sigma Academy, outlining the benefits of the process, the following was noted: “Black Belts save companies approximately $230,000 per project and can complete four to six projects per year. The Six Sigma process (define, measure, analyze, design and verify) is an improvement system used to develop new processes or products at Six Sigma quality levels. It can also be employed if a current process requires more than just incremental improvement. Both processes are executed by Six Sigma Green Belts and Six Sigma Black Belts and are overseen by Six Sigma Master Black Belts. ”
One of the best ways to slow the thrust of a Lean Manufacturing initiative is to require some form of evidence as to Return on Investment before change of any kind is allowed. Firms that are good at Lean understand that the people implementing the process should follow a set of guiding principles. In doing so, as long as the change clearly meets the criteria for the principles noted, no other form of justification is warranted. In other words, “just do it,” but with a knowledge that allows the focus to be properly placed.
Irrespective of philosophy, placing everything on the altar of Kaizen has served to hinder progress more than inspire it. In order for us to gain parity with the likes of Toyota and others, executive management has to accept no less of an excuse for not swiftly and fully implementing Lean Manufacturing than it would for not fully satisfying customer requirements or providing products of good quality. In turn, plant management has to see Lean as an absolute requirement and reporting functions have to perceive it as a top priority. Doing this boils down to approaching Lean with the same level of zeal and commitment Toyota did in its infancy. However, this type of commitment isn’t happening on a broad scale in the United States. Anyone who believe otherwise is vastly misleading themselves.
Best put, implementing Lean in the most effective manner boils down to doing the right things, at the right time, with the right people involved. Therefore, with an expressed emphasis on both the speed and smoothness of implementation in mind, this work is designed to focus on what has served to deflect energy. It will point out the lack of appropriate expertise commonly applied to some of the more important tools of Lean and how implementation strategy should be adjusted accordingly.
HOW TO MAKE THE MOST OF THIS BOOK
In the leading section of his book How To Measure Managerial Performance, Richard S. Sloma pointed out, ”I will have failed to achieve my most important objective if all you have done is merely to have read this book. We will both achieve our objectives only if you USE this book.”
I feel much the same way. Respectfully borrowing from the technique Mr. Sloma employed, I would like to point out how to make the most of this work, considering there will be both readers who are new to Lean and those who are seasoned in the tools and techniques. The book contains something of importance for both because the principal topic deals with implementation strategy. The first section (Chapters One and Two) provides a comprehensive overview of the current path Lean is taking, along with the myths, misconceptions, and flaws that have hindered progress.
These are the areas where attention needs to be focused in order for America to be much more proficient at Lean. Four levels of Lean Manufacturing are outlined which can be used to measure progress.
The second section (Chapters Three through Five) deals with what the war on waste is all about, the organizational side of the equation, and various levels of measurable accomplishment. Chapter Three can be viewed as a buffet of items from which the reader can pick and choose from in reference to a specific topic. But it should be noted that although this book is principally directed at those who have not as yet entered into Lean, it can be an excellent refresher for those who have a Lean initiative underway. Chapter Four moves on to address the important topic of properly organizing and aligning personnel for the effort and in understanding how various leadership styles both add and distract from implementing Lean in an effective manner. Chapter Five, in turn, centers on the details of how to achieve a Level One Lean Status and measure overall results.
The third section (Chapter Six) deals with the more advanced aspects of Lean Manufacturing and covers such topics as the importance of an 18-Month Rolling Implementation Plan and making a Core Process Analysis; the reasons and benefits for those who are already into Lean to strongly consider a change in course; how to gain support and cooperation from major supporting functions such as Accounting, Sales and Marketing, along with other important topics. At a minimum, this section should be scanned initially and picked up and read again, once a plant has reached a Level I status.
At the end of each chapter (including the Introduction), a number of “Key Reflections” associated with the text are noted, for quick reference purposes.