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Use a Lean Template

7/4/2014 4:00:00 PM
Article by Alan Severance

As you continue your company’s journey to the next level, keep a Lean Template in mind for every part of the organization. Everything you do from this point forward will be part of the permanent change you are making in the way you do business. So, if you haven’t already begun your move to Lean, this is the time to launch.

Take the necessary introductory steps to Lean, but don’t get bogged down with classroom instructions. Choose team leaders or facilitators who clearly want to improve, give them some facilitation and meeting management skills, and let them start. The sooner you can turn a Lean initiative into hands-on self-improvement, the quicker you will see results. Your people will tell you how to improve, where to find the Seven Wastes, and why they exist. Have the facilitators walk through a value-stream activity on their line or machine with their teams. The non-value added activities will jump off the board for the team right away. C’mon! THEY know where things could be better immediately, and now that they know you mean to walk the talk, most will walk with you. It’s their company and their future, too.

One key ingredient for getting Lean is a person from another part of the business, someone who can say “Why do you do THAT?” or “What’s THAT for? This is better than having a consultant telling you what he has seen elsewhere, because this is a colleague helping colleagues. And by helping in other areas, they will learn better what to look for in their own.

In addition to the value-stream map, Five S is a great tool for introducing Lean Thinking. This can be done simply by reinforcing the old adage: “A place for everything and everything in its place.” Training everyone to be better organized at every level of the organization sends the message that there always is a better way and that improvement attempts don’t have to be rocket science to accomplish something. In fact, many small steps can be better than one gigantic one because they will reinforce the idea of thinking of better ways every day. Since what you are doing here is changing behavior, the daily small steps will get you there much quicker and they will sustain your efforts over the long run.

Apply Lean Thinking to every part of your organization, not just the factory floor. Can you reduce redundancy in your back office or accounting department? Are there ways to reduce paper handling or shorten the amount of time it take to enter an order, create shipping documents, process invoices, or deposit checks? If you are thinking of new software, can you find a supplier who will listen to you and provide the features you need, instead of mashing your ideas to fit his prepackaged software? You already know from running a company that one size does not fit all!

Lean Thinking is nothing more than a mindset that tells employees waste is not to be accepted or tolerated. Reduce or eliminate waste everywhere, and let the results improve your bottom line immediately and forever.

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