One of Our Problems in Promoting Lean is that the Press Misrepresents Lean

I’ve spoken and written fairly often about my insistence that lean isn’t about cost-cutting.  In fact, a focus solely on cost cutting is a barrier to an effective lean implementation.

I found another blog post (For the Last Time: Cost Cutting Isn’t Lean) that addresses this issue nicely.  It links to a relevant WSJ article (that you can’t get to unless you either register or buy a subscription, which is a pain, but…oh, well) that was obviously written by some dunderhead that hasn’t a clue…the smallest CLUE!…as to what the heck lean is.

Here’s the best part of the post:

“Neither is the infantilizing, management-directed, and disrespectful (to employees) cost cutting that the Wall Street Journal describes:

After chicken processor Pilgrim’s Pride Corp. adopted it a few years ago, it scrutinized how much paper it used to print documents, how much soap employees used to wash their hands, and how much Gatorade hourly employees at one processing facility drank during breaks.”

That stuff just drives me nuts.  And it badly, badly represents what lean is all about.  I mean, where in hell did anyone get the idea that tracking worker Gator-Ade consumption has anything whatsoever to do with lean or continual improvement?  To be sure, I didn’t read the whole WSJ article and it’s possible that it was actually deriding such short sighted measures.  But I don’t think so.  WSJ is a good rag but I know of other examples in which it’s coverage of manufacturing issues left a lot to be desired.

In the end, WSJ may have done me a favor.  I’m going to start using the illustration above as something of a litmus test.  I’m going to show it to managers and ask if they think it’s a good example of lean practice.  If they answer yes…well, it’ll be an indication that we have LOTS of work ahead of us.

Visual Factory

I don’t run across good articles on Visual Factory very often (other than here in my own blog)but here’s one (The Language of Lean is Visual) at A Lean Journey.

If you put my arm up behind my back and told me I could pick just one lean method, it would be visual factory.  As Tom says in his post:

“The goal in Visual Factory is to create a “status at a glance” in the workplace. This refers to an operating environment where anyone can enter the workplace and:

See the current situation (Self-explaining)

See the work process (Self-ordering)

See if you are ahead, behind or on schedule (Self-regulating) and

See when there is an abnormality (Self-improving)”

It’s like I tell my clients: “You should be able to bring someone off the street, give them a 10-minute overview of the operations, then have them tell you the real time status of the process in front of them.”

In the Visual Factory, everyone (including new folks) know what to do, how to do it, when to do it and whether they’re doing it well or not.  All the time.



In Other Words…Off-Shoring Was Carried Out by Dumb Managers

Here’s an interesting paragraph I ran across in my recent reading ramblings:

“For instance, it was assumed that assembly labor was the significant, intractable piece of the pie, one that could easily be transplanted to foreign shores at great savings. Actually, that category of labor averages closer to 4-5 percent of product cost. Finished materials consume roughly 70 percent and overhead another 24-25 percent.

Piece parts were the very tip of the iceberg that somehow went to bid and largely decided overseas deals. This left behind fixed assets in plants, the same management overhead, increased travel, new customs fees, and greater outlays for logistics. Insufficient quality and time-to-market penalties were the other giants hiding under the waterline of standard accounting. Rarely were these factors assessed and attached to the part or assembly of parts under bid.”

via How An Old Analysis Technique Could Strengthen The U.S. Manufacturing Revival – Forbes.

I think this is a nicer way of saying:

“Much off-shoring was undertaken by managers who didn’t know what the hell they were doing.”

A Lean Manufacturing Mind-Set

I genuinely try to put myself in the shoes of the supervisors and managers I work with.  They have lots to do, they’re under a variety of pressures, and I’m not the first guy who’s come around promising that their work lives will change dramatically for the better if they’ll just put my ideas and lessons into practice.  I make a concerted effort to understand their circumstances as I ponder why implementations often go slowly….sometimes VERY slowly…in spite of my sustained attention, not to say outright nagging.

That said, I sometimes get frustrated with those same supervisors.  Even supervisors and managers who seem to be genuinely open to my coaching and advice often move very slowly in implementing them.  I’ve come to the conclusion that a “lean mind-set” is not common among manufacturing managers and supervisors.

Continue reading “A Lean Manufacturing Mind-Set”