A beginner’s guide to lean: Lean lessons learned

Now that we have begun a new year, it’s a good time to reflect on lean lessons learned in 2014.

02/25/2015


Now that we have begun a new year, it’s a good time to reflect on Lean lessons learned in 2014.

My students conducted six Lean Workouts with various sponsor organizations this year. These organizations ranged from GM to several small manufacturers to our first non-profit organization, the Detroit Historical Society. The student teams and their sponsor organizations learned a lot of Lean lessons.

Four of the key Lean lessons learned were:

1. Be precise and detailed in your observation and analysis of the gemba.

As I tell my students, you’re not tourists strolling through the plant. You are keen observers writing notes and taking pictures so that you can get the most accurate facts possible and uncover waste. One of the student teams that was conducting its Lean Workout on the gauge calibration outsourcing process of a CNC machining company actually walked with the worker and counted the 685 footsteps he made every time he performed the outsourcing process. That is what I call precise observing of the gemba! That level of precise observation facilitated their team’s ability to understand the current condition, identify the root causes and design a target condition that reduced waste from 49 percent of the process to 3 percent.

2. Standardize, standardize, standardize!

Then manage to the standards. As I have written before, “the least sexy part of Lean is standardized work. But standardized work is the linchpin of the Lean system. Where there is no standardized work, there is no process discipline, team member accountability, reliable data, continuous improvement or Lean sustainability. In many instances, the student teams found non-standard processes or, more often, no standards at all. Everyone was doing his or her own thing, and the folks at the end of the process were picking up the pieces and fielding customer complaints. I don’t know what is more important — developing standards or managing people to follow the standards. But I do know that both are critical. I tell the students to only develop standards that the people doing the work can easily understand and agree to follow and the supervisors can and will monitor and enforce. Don’t get ahead of the organization’s culture and employees’ capabilities. There is always the opportunity for future kaizen.

3. Have quality, cost and/or delivery (QCD) problems?

Look at the front end of the process first. In the manufacturing companies the students worked with this fall term, the businesses were experiencing problems with wrong customer shipments, raw material “shortages” and long lead times. Most of the so-called “data” pointed to the plant floor. But after precise and detailed observation and analysis of the current conditions, the student teams discovered the root causes to really be in the front end or the order entry, receiving and initial inspection processes. Their Lean Workouts ultimately focused on eliminating the waste and developing standards in the order entry process, the raw materials receiving process and the initial inspection process — the QCD problems were greatly impacted as a result.

Mark Doman is a professor in Lean studies at Oakland University in the department of organizational leadership. Courtesy: AME

4. Leaders must take the lead in employee communication and training to build buy-in and support for your target condition.

Employee communication and training led by the leaders of the organization are a must for any implementation plan. Just because your team comes up with a great new Lean target condition and absolutely ingenious countermeasures doesn’t mean that the employees doing the work and/or supervising the work and/or running the plant will automatically change their behavior overnight. Changing ingrained adult behavior, let alone longstanding organizational habits, is extremely tough to do. As Dennis Pawley, the Chrysler lean pioneer, told my class, “To really obtain employee buy-in, my experience shows that for every hour leaders initially budget to communicate change, multiply that 10 times to effectively achieve explanation and acceptance of the change.”


I hope these Lean lessons learned help you and your organizations on your Lean journeys. 

Mark Doman is a professor in Lean studies at Oakland University in the department of organizational leadership. He is the author of “A new Lean paradigm in higher education: A case study.” Quality assurance in education, Vol. 19 No. 3, 2011, “How Lean ready are you?” Target, Vol. 28 No. 2, 2012 and “The beginner’s guide to Lean” series. His email address is doman@oakland.edu. This article originally appeared on AME Target Online Magazine, AME is a CFE Media content partner.



Top Plant
The Top Plant program honors outstanding manufacturing facilities in North America. View the 2017 Top Plant.
Product of the Year
The Product of the Year program recognizes products newly released in the manufacturing industries.
System Integrator of the Year
Each year, a panel of Control Engineering and Plant Engineering editors and industry expert judges select the System Integrator of the Year Award winners in three categories.
May 2018
Electrical standards, robots and Lean manufacturing, and how an aluminum packaging plant is helping community growth.
April 2018
2017 Product of the Year winners, retrofitting a press, IMTS and Hannover Messe preview, natural refrigerants, testing steam traps
March 2018
SCCR, 2018 Maintenance study, and VFDs in a washdown environment.
April 2018
ROVs, rigs, and the real time; wellsite valve manifolds; AI on a chip; analytics use for pipelines
February 2018
Focus on power systems, process safety, electrical and power systems, edge computing in the oil & gas industry
December 2017
Product of the Year winners, Pattern recognition, Engineering analytics, Revitalize older pump installations
Spring 2018
Burners for heat-treating furnaces, CHP, dryers, gas humidification, and more
April 2018
Implementing a DCS, stepper motors, intelligent motion control, remote monitoring of irrigation systems
February 2018
Setting internal automation standards

Annual Salary Survey

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

The Maintenance and Reliability Coach's blog
Maintenance and reliability tips and best practices from the maintenance and reliability coaches at Allied Reliability Group.
One Voice for Manufacturing
The One Voice for Manufacturing blog reports on federal public policy issues impacting the manufacturing sector. One Voice is a joint effort by the National Tooling and Machining...
The Maintenance and Reliability Professionals Blog
The Society for Maintenance and Reliability Professionals an organization devoted...
Machine Safety
Join this ongoing discussion of machine guarding topics, including solutions assessments, regulatory compliance, gap analysis...
Research Analyst Blog
IMS Research, recently acquired by IHS Inc., is a leading independent supplier of market research and consultancy to the global electronics industry.
Marshall on Maintenance
Maintenance is not optional in manufacturing. It’s a profit center, driving productivity and uptime while reducing overall repair costs.
Lachance on CMMS
The Lachance on CMMS blog is about current maintenance topics. Blogger Paul Lachance is president and chief technology officer for Smartware Group.
Maintenance & Safety
The maintenance journey has been a long, slow trek for most manufacturers and has gone from preventive maintenance to predictive maintenance.
Industrial Analytics
This digital report explains how plant engineers and subject matter experts (SME) need support for time series data and its many challenges.
IIoT: Operations & IT
This digital report will explore several aspects of how IIoT will transform manufacturing in the coming years.
Randy Steele
Maintenance Manager; California Oils Corp.
Matthew J. Woo, PE, RCDD, LEED AP BD+C
Associate, Electrical Engineering; Wood Harbinger
Randy Oliver
Control Systems Engineer; Robert Bosch Corp.
Data Centers: Impacts of Climate and Cooling Technology
This course focuses on climate analysis, appropriateness of cooling system selection, and combining cooling systems.
Safety First: Arc Flash 101
This course will help identify and reveal electrical hazards and identify the solutions to implementing and maintaining a safe work environment.
Critical Power: Hospital Electrical Systems
This course explains how maintaining power and communication systems through emergency power-generation systems is critical.
click me