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Wednesday, October 3, 2018

Lean: Doing More to Get More

A common definition of Lean manufacturing I hear often is paraphrased as “doing more with less”. Honestly, it is my least favorite. I don’t like it because labels like this rarely capture the essence of the approach and minimize Lean. It’s origins come from summarizing Toyota’s results where they we able to do more with less resources.
It is too easy to link this phrase with firing people. Unfortunately, there are too many people who launch Lean with the only objective of personnel reduction. Lean manufacturing is not a head-count reduction system; instead Lean manufacturers understand employees on the shop floor know their work best. Lean manufacturers don’t want employees to work harder, or faster – they want employees to work more efficiently. Lean manufacturing focuses on improving employees, providing more value to the workforce, and, overall, establishing a dependable and stable workforce.
Lean is about doing more to get more, knowing that reducing waste is a growth strategy, a way to help the company be more competitive. Lean is about value — a bigger and more inclusive concept than mere waste. Lean is a systematic way to learn to see the inefficiencies in your processes and to solve these opportunities in such a way to grow the business profitably by adding value the customer will pay for. If you want to be a successful company you will learn to empower and engage the entire organization to focus improvement on value-added work from the customer’s perspective.
Lean is a relentless, continuous, never ending focus on waste reduction. Lean is all about finding better ways to do things, so that they require less effort, less time and fewer resources. It is not about cost reduction – penny-pinching, cutting investment, taking out people – it is about finding better ways to get work done. Traditional cost cutting occurs in silos, without regard to who is affected upstream and downstream. These impacts cannot just negate the initial cost reduction from the unilateral approach, but exceed them. Lean examines each process, internal and external, finding and removing the waste, and reducing cost while maintaining the health of all constituents.
Lean manufacturing means creating more value for customers with fewer resources while we deliver what the customer want, with the quality expected and when they need it.  Value is whatever the customers are willing to pay for.  Less resources means:  less time, less human effort, less machinery, less materials, less space.  
Lean is not easy. It's not easy to understand. It's not easy to implement. And it's especially not easy to sustain. But anyone who has embarked on a so-called lean journey already knows this. Lean, in fact, is hard work and it's a challenge to keep it going.
A label like "doing more with less" just doesn't do justice to Lean and all it is.

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