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Varying levels of lean?

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  • #48008

    Leanless in Honolulu
    Participant

    I am writing a paper for my company that is about to adopt lean. A question posed by one of our executives:”Are there varying levels of lean?”I’d appreciate some feedback here from the community as I build my response. Can we partially implement lean? Can we do only the basics (low hanging fruit) and not all to still be lean? Or, it is an all or nothing approach?Comments appreciated.MahaloScott

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    #160637

    GDS
    Participant

    There are different elements of Lean (5s, SMED, VSM etc…) you can have an multi element implementation. We started with 5s and are now working on VSM.

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    #160638

    JWDT
    Participant

    Scott,
    The question you pose is interesting.  If you are implementing LEAN you may take a staged approach (e.g. implement 5S, next VSM, Standard Work, Takt Time, etc.), a kaizen blitz approach, etc..  How I read your question is the executive may be asking, how much of this do we really need to implement to become Lean?  The thing I see most companies struggle with and do not seem to understand or want to embrace is that LEAN is really a System of  waste elimination, where if you do not implement one part or plan on implementing one part the System will more than likely fail.
    To answer your questions, Yes, you can implement partial parts of Lean and be successful.  Eventually, though the discussion will be centered on the latest fad of Continuous Improvement and the company may or will by-pass the opportunity to completely lean.  This eventually leads to the flavor of the month/year culture/attitude which is not that positive.  If you do a partial implementation, just be honest with yourself & company and do not try to sell yourself as a “Lean” company, the Good Lord knows we have enough of these types in the world.
    Best of luck!
    JWDT

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    #160640

    Regression
    Participant

    Leanless,
    Your executive is probably referring to an issue that has been discussed very vividly over the past 17 years:
    Womack and his team introduced the term “lean” in their MTI sponsored 1990 book on the “Machine that changed the World”. Womack and his team created the term “lean” (page 22 of the first edition) to identify core principles underlying the Toyota Production and Japanese Automotive system that could be benchmarked and incorporated into Western practices. I would strongly recommend to at least read chapters 1 – 3. He updated his book in 1996 when he spun off a very successful consulting group, the Lean Enterprise. I would read at least part 1 of the 1996 book.
    By contrast, the Toyota production system is more than “lean”. It encompasses an organizational structure etc. that has been documented by Liker in his “The Toyota Production System”. This includes management and design principles in addition to the lean principles currently taught by the Lean Enterprise. I would read at a minimum chapter 4 to get a feeling of the difference between Liker and Womack. That is where Liker summarizes the Toyota Production System in a 14 point statement analogous to Deming’s 14 points.
    In addition, there is George’s concept of Lean Six Sigma (1996, a term that he coined). I would read chapters 1 – 4 to get a feeling for how he differentiates Lean Six Sigma from “Lean” and the “Toyota Production System”.
    Finally, there are the originals, Taichi Ohno’s “Toyota Production System” and Shingo’s more technical “A Study of the Toyota Production System”. Chapter 5 of Shingo is most relevant for your topic. Shingo is more technical than either Womack, Liker, George or Ohno.
    So to your question, this is an issue that has not been resolved, and you are best advised to show the history of lean from the conception of Ohno’s and Shingo’s ideas via Womack and George to Liker. Since then, the picture has become even more complicated  by the fact that various consulting groups attempt to differentiate themselves in the market by packaging these concepts to optimize their differentiated position in the market. I have just run an internet research on the various offerings out there and it is almost impossible to keep track of what is called lean what is lean six sigma, kaizen etc. these days.
    Can you start with low hanging fruits: Absolutely! Just be aware that it took Toyota over 50 years to develop its current production system. And some of its practices are still not very well documented for very good reasons of competitive advantage. Good luck and have fun in Hawaii.

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    #160641

    Paul Gibbons
    Participant

    Regression,
    For reference, the term ‘lean’ was actually first introduced earlier than you suggest by a researcher publishing in the Sloan Management Review. The researcher was working on the same research project as Womack et al. at MIT (IMVP).
    Check out the following paper…….
    Krafcik, J. (1988) The Triumph of Lean Production. Sloan Management Review, Vol. 30, No. 1, pp. 41-51.
    Paul

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    #160643

    Paul Gibbons
    Participant

    LiH,
    Lean can either be applied to improving individual process efficiency (by lean production) or plant strategic effectiveness (by lean thinking). See for example:-
    Hines, P., Holweg, M. & Rich, N. (2004) Learning to Evolve: A Review of Contemporary Lean Thinking. International Journal of Operations & Production Management, Vol. 24, No. 10, pp. 994-1011.
    Good luck
    Paul

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    #160644

    Regression
    Participant

    Paul,
    Thanks for pointing to the reference. There are even earlier internal reports from MIT such as Krafcik and Womack’s report “Comparative Manufacturing Practice: Imbalances and Implications (May 1987) as well as a report entitled “Learning from NUMMI” (September 1986). Krafcik also wrote his Master’s thesis on the topic as did many other Master’s and PhD students whose reports and theses are well-documented in Womack, Jones and Roos’ book. Krafcik led the effort of the first round of the “Internatioanal Assembly Plant Study” with John Paul McDuffie who wrote an early report in 1986 with Haruo Shimada from the Department of Economics at Keio University.
    As Womack was the Research Director of the International Motor Vehicle Program. it is not surprising that he received most of the  credit. Also, as a former PhD student, I know all too well the dynamics of summarizing PhD and Master’s students thesis and papers into widely published works. That’s part of the initiation ritual.  

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    #160645

    Leanless in Honolulu
    Participant

    Thanks a million to everyone for their feedback. I am including these comments in a paper to that exec to hopefully set him straight!!MahaloScott

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    #160646

    Regression
    Participant

    Scott, that’s what we do all day, “set people straight” …
    Paul, thanks for sharing the reference to the article in Production etc. It will be worth looking into it.

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    #160647

    Leanless in Honolulu
    Participant

    Well you guys are why this is such a great resource.Thanks again.Scott

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    #160685

    annon
    Participant

    I would go back to the executive and ask him for clarification.  His question could be referring to anything.  Ask him to be specific and not only will you be able to answer his question but also provide an answer to the underlying concern. 
    Good luck.

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    #160693

    The New MB
    Member

    I  think  that  he does  not know  anything  about  lean?

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    #160696

    Shan
    Member

    Lean is purely common sense approach… Based on your industry just start with one product family like prototype..show cast the result
    buy in the management concurrence to go ahead in a big scale across factory
    shan

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    #160700

    Szentannai
    Member

    Hi Leanless,
    I think the trick is that in order to avoid the “flavor of the month” effect and also to make any improvements you get by using some lean tools (like 5S etc.) you have to go for the cultural change in the company. That is in my view way more difficult then even a six sigma implementation – so your bosses question does not bode well.
    Yes, you can use some of the tools and achieve spectacular results – but the week after the kaizen blitz your team will be gone from the facility and people will just  go back to business as usual. The only way to avoid that is glowing, often ferocious :) support from management – measuring, checking, controlling for a long time that people do not fall back to the old ways.
    I would ask myself and my boss :) ; are we ready, able  and willing to do that? Its way more effort than running a few kaizen blitzes a few times.
    regards
    Sandor 

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    #160709

    annon
    Participant

    Then ask. 

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    #160743

    Leanless in Honolulu
    Participant

    Hello Sandor, thanks for your response.My exec wanted to know if we could implement varying levels of lean (ie baby steps) to insure against investment/user adoption concerns. They want the best of both worlds…I have fought hard for top down support and had it early on…but as time has passed management seems to be fading. This problem is exacerbated since I am off site (I am in HI and they are in MT).I am not so worried about the control aspect. Also, user adoption/enthusiasm has been very positive to date. It just seems top heavy sometimes in that users support it but management wants to ride the fence.Scott

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    #161236

    minimalist
    Participant

    Most people are “too busy for lean” and the job of a lean department is to show the rest of the corporation how well Lean works and how to do it.  Ideally a lean department would work itself out of a job and its employees absorbed back into the work force where they can add value.  The trap is that many Lean offices spend more time proving how well they are doing than they spend implementing Lean in the plant.  My guess is that the executive is asking whether its possible to implement improvments without some bloated Lean department issuing meaningless dashboards and reports.  It is.

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    #161243

    Ron
    Member

    Tell your company to stop what they are doing and rethink this!!! Lean is a toolkit not a methodology!
    Many organizations grasp the lean approach because it is “easy” to do and intuitive. The reality of the this is that without a defined methodology to continuous improvement, a structure for monitoring the projects and training program to provide guidance and mentoring for those engaged in the process this initiative will fail!.
    I’ve worked for two companies that thought lean was the way to go, main;y because they had advocates out of the automotive industry that did not understand six sigma and continuous improvement and tried to mimic the Toyota company and it’s success.
    Unfortunately unless you are Toyota very little of what they did will rub off.
    My advise: Create a strucutre for continuous improvement, train project personneln hire competitent mentors to help the teams, and monitor the results.

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