Operations are NOT “Cost Centers”!

One of my constant refrains is “Don’t implement lean as a cost reduction initiative.  You’ll just screw it up.”  Implementing lean as a cost reduction project is a sure fire way to failure but it’s probably the most common foundation for getting started.  I think this comes from the idea that manufacturing operations are “cost centers” rather than “strategic value creation centers”.

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Teams Should Conduct Their Own 5S Audits: Part Two

In our last post, we talked a bit about 5S audits and argued that teams of operators should self-audit their own areas rather than having “external” audits conducted.  In this post, we’ll go over the process for teaching teams how to audit themselves.  I’ve also provided a download of the form I use for all this.

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Teams Should Conduct Their Own 5S Audits: Part One

We all know that an important part of sustaining 5S is auditing or assessing the status of 5S at any given point in time.  The internet is full of 5S audit forms.  In many cases, audits are carried out by “outsiders”…folks from outside the department that’s being audited.  It’s kind of like being back at school where we turned our test in and got back a grade.  If the grade was good, we were relieved.  If the grade was bad, we huffed indignantly, sure that the teacher had it in for us.  5S audits shouldn’t be like that.

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Lean Methods Could Have Prevented Historic Mistake at the Oscars

OK, so apparently a big mistake was made at the Oscars last night…a really, really big mistake.  The wrong film was announced as Best Picture.  Not Best Sound Editing, not Best Costumes, not Best Foreign Short Animation.  Best Picture.  That’s a REALLY BIG mistake.

To add insult to injury, the mistake wasn’t caught and corrected until the folks representing the wrong movie (LaLaLand) were on stage and had been thanking everyone in their extended families for their love and support.

So, what’s all this have to do with lean methods?

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Lean Is Often All About the Smallest Things

I always start any project with a few days of information gathering about the operations so that I’ll know a bit of the culture and local language when I get to the leadership planning steps. The info gathering phase is always enjoyable as I get to know the folks within the client organization and tell them what I have in mind.  During the info gathering I always come across conditions and situations that, on the one hand, are easily addressed but, on the other, I fear that the client will think, “Is that all you’ve got?” when I bring it up.

I had the latter experience a few years ago.  I was strongly encouraging a client to implement workplace organization and visual factory methods in the plant.  The thing was, the plant was reasonably clean and organized but just in the usual “decent housekeeping” way that plants sometimes are.  The managers didn’t refuse to take me up on my suggestions but didn’t seem to have much energy in implementing 5S.  They seemed primarily interested in “cost savings kaizens”.  (They couldn’t tell me what savings had come from past kaizens, or even how “cost savings” were to be measured, but that’s another story.)

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Another Misinformed Article On Lean Manufacturing

I’ve said any number of times that one of the problems with lean is  alleged “experts” who say stuff that just ain’t so. I just ran across an article that crams a lot of “just ain’t so” stuff into a few paragraphs.    Here’s the article:  Next Generation Lean: Why Lean Too Often Requires a Leap of Faith.  (I’m going to quote some of the most egregious statements (and there are a lot of them) so you might want to just stay here.)  Right off the bat, you know the article is likely to be pretty off track…lean NEVER requires a leap of faith. It’s benefits are proven many times over.  But, let’s dig in, anyway, to see what other nonsense we can uncover.

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The Lean Farm Follow-Up

A few posts ago, I mentioned I was reading (or was about to read) a book I’d come across, The Lean Farm, authored by Ben Hartman.  Well, I’m about two-thirds the way through and I’d recommend it even for (maybe, especially for) folks who are applying lean concepts and methods in other industries.  (Sometimes, examples and illustrations hit home better when they are just a bit outside our intellectual comfort range.)

The book is very nicely organized.  The author does a good job of breaking lean down into its most important elements.  Further, Hartman provides lots of illustrations and examples of his own application of lean tools and methods on his small farm.  Readers familiar with lean won’t learn much that’s new but will be interested in how an astute practitioner has been able to apply lean tools in an agricultural setting.  “Newbies” will get as good an introduction to lean ideas and methods as there is.

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