Monday, September 23, 2013

Lean Manufacturing : Does it really work?

Our Wednesday class discussion on lean manufacturing really got me into thinking that if eliminating non-value added activities means increasing overall efficiency then how come we still do not find case studies of lean manufacturing easily?
Through my research of two days, I came across an article “ Criticism of lean manufacturing” by N. Nayab in bright hub project management( This article widely criticizes lean manufacturing for the following reasons.
(1) High stress level among work force: Lean principle makes the workplace too clinical. There is continuous focus on improvement and elimination of wastes that gradually takes the shape of obsession that leads to stress in workforce. Workers are under tremendous pressure to outperform others that at times adversely impacts their productivity
(2)Need perfect environment:  Lean tools like Just In Time (JIT) and Six Sigma does not leave any space for errors.  If there is any deviance from the optimal process, it simply rejects it.  Incorporating lean principles can make the process efficient but only under perfect favorable circumstances. But it loses it significance if situation is less than perfect like ; traffic jams that can delay arrival of inventory, excellent employee may have to go on leave because of some emergency or there may be unreliable energy supply
(3)Too much focus on waste : Too much focus on eliminating wastes has a high risk of overlooking other concerns that may beg  more attention. For instance, in the enthusiasm to increase productivity and cut down on lead time, management may ignore crucial parameters like employee wellness and corporate social responsibility. Also from management perspective key decision makers may not get time to lobby and socialize with external agencies to secure orders and negotiate.

(4)Over focus on Present: Lean principle converges all energy to single goal of eliminating wastes that doesn’t let anyone think beyond present and look at the bigger picture. So management is neither able to anticipate any future challenges and nor prepare themselves to face those challenges. That in turn comes in way of any innovation or experimentation making it difficult to realize the sudden opportunities or to prepare the organization to respond to changes.

(5 Lack of standard Methodology
Lean does not have a standard lean production model. Lean implementation requires tools like Kaizen, 5S, Six Sigma etc. On one hand these tools options provide flexibility but on other hand it, in absence of standard method, it confuses people on which tool serves desired purpose.
If the workforce is able to understand the methodology and master the tools then entire lean system is smooth but the same workforce fails to adopt the lean practice then lean system will collapse in no time.

Lean manufacturing is definitely a concept that has tremendous potential to make manufacturing process efficient but now the question is that can we make the efficiency outcome sustainable and resilient?


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