Tuesday, February 4, 2014

How can you lean it when you can’t see it?

So, I have come across this article by Mark Symonds, the President and CEO of Plex Systems, Inc., who said if u can’t see it you can’t lean it. This philosophy is particularly true when it comes to managing the supply chain in lean manufacturing for it cannot be achieved without true visibility. Ok, too much detail in one line huh! Let me break it down for you guys. To understand this, we need to understand what lean manufacturing is. Lean manufacturing is going lean in everything that you do (duh!). But seriously, that’s the truth! Factors driving lean manufacturing vary from budget reductions to going green! Let’s look at the recent trends that have been driving Lean Manufacturing: Like I already mentioned, attempts to reduce budget by large and mid-scale companies across the world due to the recent economic suffering have forced them to adopt lean manufacturing techniques. This had proven effective since 87% of the manufacturing companies started seeing better revenues.

Now, let’s go back to the title of the post once again; so, we need to see the manufacturing operations to lean them. Well, is achieving such levels of high visibility easy? “Yes” say the vendors who sell ERP systems who claim it to be the panacea for all the problems! Although ERP indeed IS the solution to many problems that surround lean manufacturing, there are challenges involved in keeping pace with the current manufacturing sector which has been moving rapidly from a product-centric focus to customer-centric focus. More and more companies want to compete on getting closer to their customers rather than the release of products. This made using ERP little less effective because most of the ERP systems are designed with product-centric modules and functions. Enhancements have been made in this area and there’s still room for improvement.

But how many of these companies that have started lean programs have achieved success?  Surprisingly, the data available is mixed. One of the studies that was carried out a couple of years shows that only 2% of these companies could show some financial success.

Majority of them could not achieve their expected levels of benefits because of various reasons such as misunderstanding of Lean as a mere cost-cutting strategy, lack of collaborative involvement, conflicts with ERP implementations, mediocre consultants etc.
So, how do we fill this gap? To implement and benefit from lean technique to the fullest extent, the companies should understand that they need to design strategies to meet new objectives through more efficient use of existing resources using lean manufacturing. This doesn't mean you can simply use a few lean tools like 5S(sort, straighten, shine, standardize, sustain) on the shop floor, rather you need to build an entire culture based on lean thinking such as:
  • ·         Training everyone in the organization on kaizen(continuous improvement) techniques, including shop floor and office workers
  • ·         Recognizing and rewarding even small ideas
  • ·         Encouraging people to try new things in search of improvement by acknowledging successes and failures.

So, is Lean Manufacturing all about organizational success and achieving a better supply chain? No, it can help you attain Nirvana… Nah, just kidding! But on a serious note, lean technique carries out social responsibility as well. Effective implementation of Lean Manufacturing can reduce the carbon footprints of companies as they end up using fewer resources and it also gives rise to green supply chain management by reducing wastes and implementing transport planning and package design that comply with new green supply chain management guidelines.
So, what do you think will make implementing Lean Manufacturing easier ? I would love to hear from you!


1 comment:

  1. I read a case study for Boeing for my blog post this week (An Earthquake to shake Boeing's Culture). What I found most interesting is that an earthquake initiated their implementation of lean manufacturing.

    The company and one plant were going through a situation that is out of anyone's control. The vice president proposed her vision of lean manufacturing for executives and they agreed on the promise that performance will remain within the quality standards.

    No one likes change and some were resisting the idea but the beginning was perceived as "temporary". As long as people are more accepting of change, implementing lean manufacturing will be easier.


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