selecting pilot lean plant

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    I’m in a position to select one or two plants out of about 40 in our network that will undergo an accelerated lean / continuous improvement transformation and serve as examples to other plants of working CI/lean process/best practices.
    I’m looking for suggestions about what criteria are most relevant in making the decision about which plants are most appropriate. 
    My thoughts so far are that we do not necessarily want to work on the worst performing plants as they have issues that could be addressed in different ways by focusing on more basics.  I’m looking at mid-sized plants with a reasonably stable and open management team that has some opportunity for improvement and is ready to go to the next level of operational excellence.
    Ideas for the selection process are most appreciated.  Thanks.



    Hey Scott,
    Some things to take into account:
    If this is the first initative on Lean transformation in your company. Then a crucial question is: “how is the management support organised?”
    Is each plant asking “pick me”, or is each plant saying “oh no, please don’t pick us”. If you got the challenge to prove that Lean is the approach which needs to be implemented to make a next step, but you don’t have the management support from all plants, then you have an issue.
    It is also important to know if you are the person who is going to implement the Lean transformation, or if you are asking external support / other internal people to help in this matter. Why? Well if you need to implement it from a remote distance (e.g. oversea) then it will be very hard.
    For the moment final important question: do you know plants where there are already Lean believers, who can help you in this challenge? This can help you al lot to make first visual improvement steps. They become your supporters to also convince the other plants to go this way.
    So summary:
    1. You need a plant with strong management support
    2. The plant must be easy accessable for the lean transformation drivers
    3. The plant needs some strong believers to deliver first evidence (low-hanging-fruit) to get the ball rolling.
    As you see, in such an initiative I would not look to the short-term gain of easy money, but to the long-term gain of a total organisational drive towards LEAN.
    Hope this helps you.



    Dear Scot,
    Your Thoughts are right.
    Apart from that, Make a matrix of your plants Lean Metrics (S,Q,C,D,M) and Degree of complexity in Lean transformation.
    Rate in scale of (1 – 10). Discuss with your Top Management with this grid and select the ‘Pilot’
    Above will help you to bridge the gap between your and Management Thoughts on the work your are plannning.
    All the best



    The previous postings are spot-on with respect to management involvement and commitment.  You should be hearing “pick me” from the respective plant managers.  Those who are silent can be considered “passive resistors” to change.
    You also want to ensure you don’t chose plants whose operations are in disarray.  While this “low-hanging fruit” may be easily picked (without applying any fancy tools!), you want to look for operations exhibiting stability.  Without a stable operation, you will be constantly changing your conclusions about the root causes and will then be constantly changing your thoughts and actions with your lean activities.  What you want to look for is a stable, mature plant, with an actively supportive plant manager and staff.
    This last point is one that can really get you into trouble though.  Sometimes, the plant manager is “supportive” but not engaged and it’s the staff who really controls the initiative.  Watch out for the “frozen middle” i.e. middle managers who are either passively or actively resisting the initiative.  These people fear change and will do whatever they can to protect the status quo.  Ensure your buy-in includes not only the plant manager, but the staff as well.
    Good luck!



    I would make the argument that your choice should absolutely be driven by the needs of the business –  first and foremost.  The other posters are certainly correct that buy-in is essential (Q x A = E) but that is often the reason itself for chosing poor performers….it is here that you will often find the greatest support for your effort.
    And instability is to be expected in poor performers (by definition)  and is often  remedied through simple process management and standardization.  In fact, you will often mkae your biggest gains in the least amount of time within this environment, as there is no need to dive too deep into the LSS toolbox…..A simple application of the The 7 Quality Tools can work wonders here.
    Find the plant that is causing management the greatest heartburn        (eg pareto-ing profitability).  Start there and prove the skill set. 
    Good luck.


    Adam L Bowden

    There are a lot of ways to address this – you need to use screening
    elements and criteria to whittle the list down to “the one”.The first strategic screen might be – which plants are we going to
    keep.For the next screen you might wish to consider if you are going to
    use strategic or tactical elements/criteria – this will be driven by
    the needs of the Leadership – are they more tactical or strategic.I have, have used, both the tactical and strategic selection matrixes
    and would say that to accelerate impact the tactical one works best
    to start with (first 3 months) as this focusses on bottom line impact
    or P&L impacting elements that can be used to great effect with
    appropriate PR.If you are to set up your own screen then use a C&E style matrix
    with the key screening elements/criteria, their relative weighting
    and scores for each plant to provide a pareto of opportunities.
    Perhaps on a next level screen you can add in further
    elements/criteria.Hope this helps – if you want to call or e-mail for further deep dive
    let me know.Best regards,Adam
    720 938 0321 (GMT-6hrs (MST))
    [email protected]
    Skype – adamlbowden



    Thanks for the info.  Some more information if it is helpful…
    If I understand the definitions in this context, I would say the company leadership and company culture is mostly more tactical, and past CI attempts have been only partly succesful and tactically based.  But, earlier this year, we revamped our approach somewhat and have been working more of a strategic approach trying to build more of a solid foundation and culture.  I think we may have started too big, i.e. working too many plants at once.  We have pretty active involvement and committment by business unit vice presidents and directors.  At the mid-level, plant managers are having difficulty prioritizing and finding time/resources to implement.  I think we can make more progress by focusing more effort, training, mentoring, coaching and resources on 2 or 3 plants only.
    Thanks, scott



    Thanks Bart.
    Some other initiatives have been attempted over the last year or so, but not as well organized or with as much committment as we have now.  Also, it is more clear that we are pursuing a lean six sigma approach now as opposed to a shotgun tool approach in the past.
    Top business unit leadership (company VP’s, directos, etc) are strong supporters and are getting involved from a CI steering team perspective.  A few plant managers are leading the way on some activities that we have kicked off already, but I only know one that has actively asked or stated that he would like more help.
    Mostly implementation will be by myself and a couple other people internal to the company.  Some options for limited external support are being explored.  Mainly executive leadership training and perhaps some additional training for a couple of internal experts.  Geographically, all plants are in the US (as are all implementers) and a few are within reasonable driving distance.
    Any other thoughts based on this additional information?
    Thanks again.


    Adam L Bowden

    Hello Scott,One further element that you may leverage … Communication and
    replication of best practice.Having a few plants drive change hard makes sense but you will be
    able to reap the benefits of this if you can communicate some best
    practice that other plants can rapidly implement also – core
    processes that are similar e.g Kanban inventory/supply chain,
    compressed air usage, energy expenses.In the past every month we presented best practice at a different
    plant – that way we could “go see” and share our efforts which
    made a big difference.Regards,Adam


    Ovidiu Contras

    Go with the guy that asked for help – but ask him before if he is ready to lead the transformation, by allocating ressources and personnaly participating in improvement activities.
    Of course, you have to provide him knowledge of how Lean works (a Sensei).
    Hope this helps

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