It’s only cost reduction, and other Lean myths
With the U.S. economy showing only glimmers of positive movement, now could be exactly the right time to make the Lean manufacturing changes your company needs. But first you have to understand what Lean is and isn’t. That is a key message from Steve Cook, a former Dell Computer supply chain executive and newly appointed chief operating officer of MFG.
With the U.S. economy showing only glimmers of positive movement, now could be exactly the right time to make the Lean manufacturing changes your company needs. But first you have to understand what Lean is and isn’t. That is a key message from Steve Cook, a former Dell Computer supply chain executive and newly appointed chief operating officer of MFG.com, an online marketplace for the sourcing of parts and manufacturing services.
“To be successful with Lean,” said Cook, “you need a burning platform.” Cook spent 7 years as an electrical engineer and pilot in the Navy before joining Dell Computer Corp. for more than a decade of manufacturing operations management and supply chain leadership. His “burning platform” had been Dell’s least-utilized desktop computer assembly plant, which clearly had too much capacity. Cook led a successful brownfield Lean conversion of the plant, and said he learned a lot in the process, including some of the myths of Lean.
1. Lean = Job Cuts
“If done well, Lean initiatives are less a cost-cutting exercise and more a growth exercise,” said Cook. Success if dependent on the entire team, and individuals need to know they’re performing Lean activities to help the company grow, not to engineer themselves out of a job. “If there’s not a commitment to the team, the team won’t be committed to implementation,” he said.
2. Lean = Doing More with Less
Lean is about doing more to get more, knowing that reducing waste is a growth strategy, a way to help the company be more competitive, Cook said.
3. Lean = Cost Reduction
While Lean initiatives clearly involve reducing costs, “it’s a myth if it’s the only reason why you’re doing Lean,” emphasized Cook. “The underpinning of Lean must be about making the organization more successful.” Manufacturers must understand the customer value stream, and understand what customers are willing to pay for, he added.
“We had a saying at Dell,” said Cook. “You’ll get beat up for high cost, but you’ll get fired for quality/availability issues.”
Successful companies “engage the entire team, look at tasks through customers’ eyes, and use those insights to grow the business,” said Cook. Looking through the customers’ eyes means taking the point of view of internal and external customers, who often have different needs.
“Lean is about embracing change and realizing that change itself is a competitive advantage. Change is the lifeblood of an organization,” said Cook. Lean is “also about the people, [who can be resistant to change]. Let people learn about Lean, and constantly be willing to listen. Focus on the whole team, and the whole organization,” he added.
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Before the calendar turned, 2016 already had the makings of a pivotal year for manufacturing, and for the world.
There were the big events for the year, including the United States as Partner Country at Hannover Messe in April and the 2016 International Manufacturing Technology Show in Chicago in September. There's also the matter of the U.S. presidential elections in November, which promise to shape policy in manufacturing for years to come.
But the year started with global economic turmoil, as a slowdown in Chinese manufacturing triggered a worldwide stock hiccup that sent values plummeting. The continued plunge in world oil prices has resulted in a slowdown in exploration and, by extension, the manufacture of exploration equipment.
Read more: 2015 Salary Survey