I just started reading Rude Awakening: The Rise, Fall, and Struggle for Recovery of General Motors, written by Maryann Keller. It was published in 1989, so it’s not a new book by any stretch. A lot has happened to GM in the past 31 years. But it’s an interesting read for anyone interested in learning more about how big companies manage to screw things up in spite of having lots of resources at their disposal.
At any rate, the book discusses the bad days at the nearby (to me) Lordstown plant back in the 1970’s. That led me to the interwebs to learn more about all that, where I found the 1973 documentary Loose Bolts. (Click on this link.)
It’s about 30 minutes or so long and worth a viewing. The production values aren’t great but the interviews with some of the workers and supervisors at the plant are interesting to hear, especially given that they took place shortly after the three-week strike at the plant.
As one learns more about the conditions and management approach at Lordstown, it’s hard not to conclude that GM purposefully created intolerable conditions expressly for the purpose of engendering a strike.
I used to send IW articles about lean. But I’ve switched to covering corporate culture, change management, and employee engagement morale. Thus the two articles on culture and morale. With more to come.
There are a couple of reasons for this…
First, I cover lean here and in my email so I don’t have many ideas left for IW. I’d often go a year or two between submissions to IW about lean.
Second, lean is covered quite well by Larry Fast. I’ve linked to a couple of his IW articles here. He’s about the best I’ve read. (Lonnie Wilson, Jamie Flinchbaugh, and James Shook also come mind as better than average writers on the topic.) So I figured I’d leave the IW lean turf to him.
OK, I don’t actually want you to altogether forget about lean. I do want you to get rid of the notion (if you ever had it) that lean is a tool bag of tricks and techniques for wringing a few bucks out of your manufacturing processes or for getting another percentage point of efficiency from your employees. There are ways of achieving those ends if that’s what you want but lean ain’t it. Rather, lean is all about creating a smooth, consistent, predictable flow of information and materials through your organization. I found a couple of good articles that reinforce my thinking that I want you to check out.
I’ve often said that lean is NOT cost cutting. Maybe a better way to put it is, lean is one thing…cost cutting is another. I found an article that provides a few good examples of cost-cutting that aren’t lean. And that’s not a bad thing. Continue reading “Cost Cutting vs Lean”
In the last post, we recommended posting charts at each work station to gather information about production and performance that would be used to identify and solve problems. Remember, the purpose of these charts isn’t simply to gather data that will be used later by your resident black belt (though it certainly could be). The purpose is to identify and address problems in real time, in other words, lean problem solving. So we’re interested in gathering as little information as possible in as “user-friendly” a way as we can and still get good problem solving accomplished.
Lean efforts will be successful to the degree to which we have operational excellence in the shop. Inventories and costs will decrease to the extent that we can reduce downtime, scrap, delays, scheduling problems, die problems, and equipment problems. There’s no value in a value stream mapping and no good in pushing a pull system unless we also address those problems that will keep them from being effective. Supervisors and operators need to be actively involved in problem solving.
As I’ve mentioned, I’m getting started on putting more material on YouTube. Here’s my latest…it’s an overview/description that answers (one hopes) the question, “What is Lean?”
I hope you’ll get a chance to check it out. I think my own definition, while not brand new and “never-heard-of”, does take a bit of a different slant from that of many of descriptions. And, as you might imagine, I like my description better. So, go take a look!
I’ve updated a video I posted to YouTube some time ago. (Actually, what I did was delete the old video and replace it.) The video is a quick overview that answers the question, “What is 5S?”. I hope you’ll take a look at it.