The lean approach is increasing in popularity by businesses of all sizes. Lean is a way of managing the manufacturing process and all functions of the business, making them more efficient. It is a form of manufacturing and management that uses less resources compared to mass production. It results in less waste, less human efforts, minimum inventory, less space needed for manufacturing and less engineering time.
Even though less resources are used, production and manufacturing are not compromised. In fact, it improves quality, production time, cash flows and results in huge cost reductions. Initially lean started with manufacturing processes, but in recent times has been applied to all kinds of processes.
To make the lean approach work in your organization, there are six critical factors to consider:
Intense competition forces firms to continuously improve their business which is the reason for the lean application and implementation. There are so many benefits to lean that it seems illogical for companies not to adapt this approach. Through proper implementation the lean approach offers many benefits which include improved quality, improved efficiency and continuous improvement within the organization.
However, there are challenges faced such as resistance and ensuring the application of lean lasts. The successful implementation of lean depends on various factors, but the major factors include the perception and engagement of employees and the management’s knowledge and commitment to the approach.
2. Lean commitment
Everyone within the organization should be involved in the lean implementation from the managers to all staff levels in the organization. Employees should be able to ask questions and through that clearly understand why lean means change for the better. When thinking about implementing lean, communications is crucial to effective implementation. Management commitment and leadership is key to driving the lean implementation process.
Without support from management, the implementation of lean manufacturing will not work which is why the management team should understand the efforts needed, and invest in skills and knowledge to successfully implement lean throughout the organization.
Lean must be planned and cannot be rushed. A plan provides the vision and expected results. It is broken down into steps, performance targets and milestones. The managers should aim to integrate lean in every function of the business and set goals to help concentrate staff attention on identifying waste within a process and resolving specific issues.
4. Lean tools and materials
Utilizing lean tools and customized lean materials ensures implementation within the entire supply chain and process. This way, the organization is engaging in an overall lean implementation strategy that is not limited to just the process. Consider using the right material handling solutions to better implement your lean manufacturing applications.
5. Eliminate waste
Producing or manufacturing more with less is the key to survival in a competitive environment. Waste never improves value, but only increases cost. Identify all uneconomical and non-value-added activities at the plant and office. Analyze how to streamline these functions, while at the same time provide better services to customers.
Improve productivity by reducing wasteful steps in the manufacturing process. Reduce unnecessary excess inventory as overstocking can result in obsolete inventory. Use the just-in-time inventory system which means materials will be ordered when needed for production.
6. Employee involvement
It is important to involve the employees that are part of the changes to optimize the lean approach and achieve continuous improvement. At the planning stage and when implementing lean, change management is required. It will be easier for managers, leaders and staff to accept change when they have been involved in the decision-making process.
Greater employee engagement will result in committed and productive teams as well as reduced uncertainty and resistance to change. Additionally, provide training and create a roadmap for employees to be fully engaged in the implementation phase. Provide clear roles and responsibilities including tools and materials that they should use.