Wednesday, September 10, 2014

“Lean Manufacturing” , Hard to “Success”?

As a management philosophy raised in the late 90’s, “Lean Manufacturing” is gaining its popularity with more companies and organizations adopting it into their daily production and operations. 

In answering this question, you can firmly say no under the ideal circumstances, since “Lean Manufacturing” centers on making obvious what adds value by reducing everything else (1). However, we all live in a world full with uncertainties, and an industry survey shows that only 2 percent of companies that have a lean program achieved their anticipated results.(2) This keeps us wondering why such a good philosophy has surprisingly high failure rate.

Recently I read an article called Why Lean Programs Fail (3) written by Jeffrey Liker and Mike Rothe. This article mainly focused on the company’s improvements part, setting the TOYOTA case as a successful example, pointing out the points which led to their success (including the TOYOTA Production System), while may be misunderstood by other companies when learning from TOYOTA, and the authors gave their opinions and suggestions on dos and don’ts  as well. 

They points out that the origins of improvement is one of the essentials in Lean Manufacturing. The useful ideas and plans for improving a company are the result of cycles of plan-do-check-act (PDCA), the behaviors and decisions should be done systematically to conquer obstacles step by step during PDCA process. Meanwhile, people need to accept changes and learn how to develop solutions since the companies conditions are always changing. For the leaders, it is necessary to develop people in dealing with challenges so that a company can achieve the desired results. 

To sum up, a company should equip with both hard core (sophisticated production mechanism) and soft core (human resource mechanism) to deal with challenges in the changing conditions. Though this may seem to be a little general for reference, it is still a useful guide or remind for those companies which have lean programs, since the conditions of companies/industries vary one to another, such as the market background, staff’s culture background, nature of organizations, etc.. 

Here are two questions regarding the implementation of lean manufacturing as well.
  1. How ideas and plans can be developed in an organization that the plans&orders are usually conveyed from upper management level? (The lower level may tend to obey the decisions directly.)
  2. If the cost of maintaining a lean manufacturing system and training staff exceeds the revenue increase brought from the implementing of lean manufacturing, should we continue the lean program?

(1). Definition:
(2). Everybody’s Jumping on the Lean Bandwagon, but Many are Being Taken for a Ride. Industry Week, May 1, 2008.

(3). Why Lean Programs Fail

No comments:

Post a Comment

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.