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Lean Manufacturing is More Than Just Tools

18. June 2018 15:57

By: Larry O'Keefe, LJ Okeefe Inc.

Too often we hear Lean Manufacturing (or Toyota Production System) referred to by one or more of its many technical tools. Some call it ‘kaizen’, ‘JIT’, 5S and so on, leading one to perhaps believe these tools or elements are the essence of Lean. In fact, nothing could be more incorrect.
 
The Toyota Production System, upon which Lean Manufacturing is based, is a balance of three elements. Those elements are the Philosophy, True North (perfection is the goal) and the Technical Tools. Obviously, when a company begins its lean journey applying technical tools is one part of the response to the problems being attacked. Unfortunately, the efforts that simply apply tools without also embracing the other elements will fall far short of achieving sustained results or perhaps never achieve any real improvement.
 
Some companies even go so far as to decide to avoid implementing key parts of the system and then will explain that Lean Manufacturing does not work, or does not work for their business reality.
 
For example, some efforts may attempt to implement the concepts of JIT, such as takt time, continuous flow or pull systems while deliberately avoiding the foundation tools like production leveling. Implementation of these tools is not sequential; there is not a defined step by step process of when to implement each piece. Many will be implemented simultaneously, where simply leveling by volume within some time frame is used in order to balance a line to takt time and create standardized work. Too often I have clients tell me that they cannot level production because customer demand varies daily, even though lead time for the product is weeks or even months!
 
One role of top management in leading a lean transformation is to challenge current paradigms and conventional thinking. As my first Sensei explained to me when our plant was struggling with the concepts, “TPS is a revolution against current practices”.
 
Learn more about this topic during Larry's session, Leading Change, Top Management's Role in a Lean Manufacturing Transformation at the IWF 2018 Education Conference.
 

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