A beginner’s guide to Lean

Many companies started with 5S events are stalled or, worse, going backward. See what you should do to establish a lasting Lean program.

10/15/2014


As I do every summer, I visited several manufacturing companies in the southeastern Michigan area to evaluate and recruit companies to Mark S. Doman is a professor in Lean studies at Oakland University. He has led several major organizational change initiatives throughout his career that included corporate restructuring, Lean workouts and process re-engineering.Courtesy: Target Online Magazine sponsor Oakland University student teams for my Lean courses during the upcoming fall and winter terms.

Many of the companies have started their Lean journeys, but now find themselves stalled or, worse, going backward. One common denominator is that most of the companies started with some sort of 5S event, which more likely turned out to be 2S "one-and-done" events.

One plant manager walked me through his raw materials receiving area and showed me the faded trappings of a 5S effort that a team did two years ago. Sure, there were painted lines on the floor where certain materials were supposed to be stored, but that was about it. The receiving area was dirty and disorganized.

I asked him what had happened. He shrugged his shoulders and said there was a big hoopla to start, but that it quickly died down and not much was done afterward. It left a bad taste in everyone's mouth about Lean.

Another plant manager gave me a plant tour through his production area. I noticed the hard-to-see paint on the floor that indicated that a storage rack was supposed to be situated there, so I asked if the rack against a nearby wall was out of place. He said yes. I asked him what he typically would do about that. His expression said it all.

I know that a 5S event is a great team-building event. It's comfortable. Who doesn't like a fun 5S event? Everyone likes a clean, organized workplace. It's a great way to kick off your company's Lean journey. Right?

Not so fast. My experience tells me differently. A 5S event promotes a false sense of finality. "We did 5S, and now we are done with Lean." It's perceived as a one-time event that is supposed to start the Lean engine, and Lean will run on its own thereafter.

Lean needs to start with a leadership team that understands what it is embarking on and what commitment will be required to see this Lean journey through.

When I talk to the leadership teams about starting Lean, I always go back to the fundamentals I wrote about in my summer 2012 Target Online article, "How Lean ready are you?"

As I said in that article, "Every member of the leadership team should participate in the first three steps of this four-step, hands-on, data-driven Lean readiness assessment (LRA) exercise:

1. Go to the Gemba: Get out of your office and see what is really going on.
2. Value stream mapping: Understand where the value is produced and where the waste is with data and metrics.
3. Problem-storming: Identify (not solve) major problem areas and where they are with pictures and frontline input.
4. Then, based on your leadership team's answers to the first three steps, either decide to stop the LRA now or move forward to the fourth and final step.
5. Kaizen: Select a lean champion from the leadership team, appoint a team leader from the problem-storming invitees and form a Kaizen team of five or six members from different levels and functions to choose a problem from the list of problems identified in the problem-storming session and complete an A3 Report."

After completing the four-step LRA, the leadership team will have the knowledge and experience, plus have demonstrated their personal "skin in the game" to their employees, to decide whether it wants to start a lean initiative. Then, there's a good chance that it will be more than a "big hoopla 5S event" and nothing more.

Email me your best Lean practices and describe how and why they work to motivate your employees to solve problems and improve performance. I'd like to include them in future articles and spread the word about best Lean practices throughout the manufacturing world.

Mark S. Doman is a professor in Lean studies at Oakland University. He has led several major organizational change initiatives throughout his career that included corporate restructuring, Lean workouts and process re-engineering. 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. This article originally appeared on AME Target Online Magazine. AME is a CFE Media content partner. Edited by Joy Chang, digital project manager, CFE Media, jchang@cfemedia.com



Top Plant
The Top Plant program honors outstanding manufacturing facilities in North America.
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.
October 2018
Tools vs. sensors, functional safety, compressor rental, an operational network of maintenance and safety
September 2018
2018 Engineering Leaders under 40, Women in Engineering, Six ways to reduce waste in manufacturing, and Four robot implementation challenges.
July/Aug
GAMS preview, 2018 Mid-Year Report, EAM and Safety
October 2018
2018 Product of the Year; Subsurface data methodologies; Digital twins; Well lifecycle data
August 2018
SCADA standardization, capital expenditures, data-driven drilling and execution
June 2018
Machine learning, produced water benefits, programming cavity pumps
Spring 2018
Burners for heat-treating furnaces, CHP, dryers, gas humidification, and more
October 2018
Complex upgrades for system integrators; Process control safety and compliance
September 2018
Effective process analytics; Four reasons why LTE networks are not IIoT ready

Annual Salary Survey

After two years of economic concerns, manufacturing leaders once again have homed in on the single biggest issue facing their operations:

It's the workers—or more specifically, the lack of workers.

The 2017 Plant Engineering Salary Survey looks at not just what plant managers make, but what they think. As they look across their plants today, plant managers say they don’t have the operational depth to take on the new technologies and new challenges of global manufacturing.

Read more: 2017 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.
Material Handling
This digital report explains how everything from conveyors and robots to automatic picking systems and digital orders have evolved to keep pace with the speed of change in the supply chain.
Electrical Safety Update
This digital report explains how plant engineers need to take greater care when it comes to electrical safety incidents on the plant floor.
IIoT: Machines, Equipment, & Asset Management
Articles in this digital report highlight technologies that enable Industrial Internet of Things, IIoT-related products and strategies.
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.
Design of Safe and Reliable Hydraulic Systems for Subsea Applications
This eGuide explains how the operation of hydraulic systems for subsea applications requires the user to consider additional aspects because of the unique conditions that apply to the setting
click me