How to Implement Lean Manufacturing: More Overview

Last time, we laid out the five steps to implementing lean manufacturing and gave a bit of an overview as to the whole program.  Let’s work on that a bit more.  We’ll jump into the specifics of the five phases next post.

Over the years, I’ve found that clients often know about the various concepts and tools surrounding lean.  I rarely get asked, “What’s this ‘heijunka’ thing I’ve heard about?”  or “I don’t know much about 5S.  Can you explain it to me?” Rather, the more common questions are “How do I get started?” and “What do I do next?”

To tell you the truth, the best answer to those questions is, “We can’t really be sure where to start or what to do next until we dig in and talk more about your specific circumstances.”  I’ve found, though, that answer doesn’t do much to comfort prospective (or existing) clients.  They’re eager to hear the program.  Mind you, they’re often very willing to be flexible once the program gets started.  Heck, they are the ones that generate the need for flexibility once it gets started.  But, at the front end, they need to hear that the implementation has a beginning, an end, and a finite number of steps to get between the two.

Just as if you were building a house.  You wouldn’t be comforted if the contractor said, “We’ll start talking about your needs and interests and see what develops.”  You’d want to see a blueprint.  That’s what the five steps represent: a blueprint for implementing lean methods and tools.