June 5, 2014 / continuous improvement, lean manufacturing, LIT, maintaining talent, operator training, productivity
As the manufacturing industry evolves and the dynamics of the market change, many companies are adjusting their lean strategies. Metal service centers that “got lean” years ago are focusing on continuous improvement, and a growing number of high-mix, low-volume operations are tweaking traditional lean methodologies to fit their specific situation. In fact, this article from the Harvard Business Review actually criticizes traditional lean methods and suggests that today’s companies should be nuancing their approaches.
While lean strategies are shifting, most experts agree that creating a lean culture is a critical aspect of any successful implementation. Unfortunately, many companies fail to understand this basic principle. Oftentimes, manufacturers treat a lean initiative as a one-time project, and as a result, aren’t able to achieve sustainable results. As most experts would attest, lean is not an event; it’s a culture change.
Of course, creating culture change within an organization is not nearly as simple as it sounds. According to PEXNetwork.com, a peer-to-peer network of companies focused on operational excellence, “most lean implementation failures are not due to failure to grasp lean tools and techniques, but a failure of change management.”
Below are a few resources we’ve gathered to get you thinking about what makes up a lean culture and, even more so, how you can create it:
- Understand your culture. Before attempting to make any changes, managers should first understand what defines their company culture. This blog post from author and lean management expert Lawrence Miller lists seven “levers” that makeup an organization’s culture as well as specific examples of what those levers look like in a successful lean organization.
- Focus on the customer. While many companies think that change starts by looking within, this article talks about creating a lean culture from the “outside-in.” The article lists four essentials to building a lean culture, starting with looking at your organization from your customers’ perspective (the “outside”). In addition, the article suggests that managers “make the customer everyone’s business.”
- Follow-up is key. Many companies undergo “kaizen” or continuous improvement events to achieve change within their operation. However, as an article from the Association of Manufacturing Excellence argues, many managers fail to follow-up on these initiatives and, therefore, are unable to achieve the cultural shifts necessary to promote continuous improvement. “By introducing a robust means of follow-up, you can improve the speed by which change is integrated, and ensure an effective cultural shift is both supported and nurtured,” the article states. Check out a reprint of the article here to read about common kaizen mistakes, as well as three action items that promote cultural change.
- Engage Employees. People will naturally resist change; however, they are more likely to jump on board if they are involved in the process. As this white paper from LIT notes, the so-called “magic” happens on the shop floor when an operator or process area becomes committed to their operation and, more importantly, takes pride in hitting company goals. However, this type of operator “buy in” requires both communication and accountability. It also requires managers to build a bridge between what is decided in the executive offices and what is happening on the manufacturing floor. One lean strategy to accomplish this is to take a Gemba walk, which you can read about in more detail here.