Today, lean manufacturing has become one of the main go-to methodologies for improving a range of complicated processes in manufacturing. For many companies, lean methodologies are very enticing due to the aspect of eliminating wasteful processes and focusing on delivering a high level of value to the customer. The core principles of lean are designed to reduce any unnecessary costs by directing you to only produce exactly what customers are willing to pay for.
However, lean manufacturing does not come without its own set of challenges, and with a huge failure rate of 70% in the US, it’s clear to see that implementing these principles effectively is key to their success. Some failures may be down to misalignments between the methodologies and the businesses in which they were applied, but it’s important to consider the effect of challenges faced in the implementation process. These challenges could range from the cost of investing in the transition, the need to constantly improve the implementation afterward, and even resistance from the organization itself after so long doing things another way. These challenges can easily cause issues with your implementation efforts or even result in a complete failure if left unchecked. So, what should business owners and managers keep in mind when implementing lean manufacturing?
One of the biggest mistakes that businesses make when transitioning to lean is trying to do it all at once. A gradual implementation tends to work out much better, so start your lean transition with a single team. Starting small allows you to reduce the risk of unsuccessful implementation and minimize disruption as you implement these methodologies in smaller phases. This means transitioning each step one at a time and understanding the steep learning curve for the organization as a whole. A gradual roll-out will help you gain a better understanding of the effects of the change on your organization and allow you to deal with them before they have a larger impact. Click here to find out more about successfully implementing lean gradually.
Identify Value and Waste:
To properly prepare your company to take on a lean approach, you should start on the correct foot by recognizing the difference between value-adding and wasteful activities. This requires those at the top to conduct a thorough and objective examination of the current system. There are certain lean-based tools that you can use to better visualize how both the value and waste reach the customer. These include a Present State Value Stream Map (PSVSM), which outlines your operations in their current state, and a Future State Value Stream Map (FSVSM), which defines where your goals for the operations are in the future as a result of implementing lean strategies and principles. A FSVSM should eliminate any wasteful processes and focus only on delivering value.
Track the Performance:
In order for your lean implementation to run smoothly, it’s important to ensure that you are continuously tracking performance. Many organizations that do this successfully do it by focusing on analytics by collecting data at each step of the process. And, it’s worth setting up a range of key performance indicators (KPIs) that can be used as goalposts to determine whether or not your transition to a lean way of doing things is reaching goals and going in the right direction.
Focus on Continuous Improvement:
Once you have succeeded in implementing lean across value streams, it’s important to ensure that the good habits built during this transition are continued. Continuous learning and improvement is an essential aspect of a successful lean transition and there is no final ‘goal’ when it comes to preventing and removing waste to deliver more value to the customer. Eliminating waste should be a continuous operation since there is always the risk of new wasteful processes emerging in the future whether it’s facilitated by changes in manufacturing technology or simply employees getting complacent and falling back into old habits.
A key aspect of lean is working with cross-functional teams from different departments in order to finish a project and ensure that everybody is on the same page when it comes to the work that is required. You should encourage collaboration between teams as much as possible and ideally create opportunities for different teams to get to know one another and learn about the work that they do. Monthly improvement projects known as Kaizen Activities can be an ideal way to encourage teams who would not usually collaborate to work together.
Ensure That Resources Are Provided:
Ensuring that everybody has safe and unrestricted access to the resources that they need to get the job done well is crucial. This can be done by conducting daily walkabouts where each department posts its goals and objectives so that executives can find out what they are going to need to ensure that these are met. This action not only gives higher management the option to determine whether resources are being provided effectively but also allows them to provide guidance in terms of meeting goals and offer support while monitoring progress.
Learn from Others:
Finally, implementing a lean methodology and making the transition can often take a while when doing it gradually. And, while the gradual approach can work well, it often leads to a lack of expertise within the company, particularly during the early stages. Benchmarking can be an ideal way to get examples and advice regarding your implementation of lean strategies. Visiting other facilities, stores, or factories that have successfully implemented and used lean strategies and methodologies in their day-to-day operations can help you set a goal for your company in terms of where you want to be, along with providing you with the option to learn more about the strategies that got them to where they are.
Lean methodologies are an ideal way to improve the manufacturing process by reducing waste and providing a higher level of value to the customer. When an organization is used to traditional methods of doing things, implementing lean is not always easy. Keep these tips in mind to ensure that the transition runs as smoothly as possible.