What do we need lean for?

How do I see the Lean Departament in a company and how do the Management see it?

While I am talking with the Production Manager, Managing Director or the Company Owner about lean management, I try to understand what do they expect from us, lean people! For me, their answer could be a clue or even a key to understand, why the company has dilemmas or problems and how to achieve some goals by implementing the lean programme.

Flexibility, profitability or reduction?

Let’s say, the person, whose task is to implement lean ( co-ordinator, manager or even team responsible for the lean), suggests that company wants to improve something. The question is what? I often hear such statements like:

  • We want to reduce the number of defective finished products. Warehousing, reprocessing or modifications and audits costs us money.
  • We must stand out from our competitors and be more attentive to the timeliness of liabilities due to our clients needs. We must not be late with the deadlines set in the contract.
  • Variable costs are too high and it burdens us. We want to increase profitability of our company, which will improve the cash flow.
  • Clients require flexibility from us, therefore, we want to understand what we need to do to unlock, or set up the processes in that way so to meet the given deadilnes.
  • We would like the operators and leaders to be more involved. They are not really following such basic tasks as 5S or even submitting their ideas.
  • The plan for the future is to delegate more daily duties onto operators – just like stand alone machine maintenance.
  • The amount of time lost on unplanned stops or failures causes delays to the production.

Above you can read only a piece of what can be heard from the company’s management and of course, all these statements are true.

What the lean department is for the management?

In fact, I am trying to create a picture of what my speaker means by lean. Is it a cost reduction, quality improvement, increasing employees engagement or maybe something else? The answer of my speaker, as I said before, can have a major affect on understanding what is really happening in that particular company. What is the lean department used for by the management and what are the expectations from the person responsible for lean in this company?

I am trying to find in my speaker’s answer, whether he is focused on tasks, i.e results or on the way to achieve the result. In my opinion this is a very important point of reference because the management ,who is focused on the results, will have different expectations and attitude towards its leaners than the ones who say that the results are important but the whole way to achieve them is the key to it and to the stable development of the company.

My understanding of the lean department workflow

First of all, I am trying to figure out, by listening to my speaker, his relations to my understanding of the lean department – what does it do for the company and what I would like to see in it.

Well, here is what Mark Forkun expects from leaners responsible for the lean program in the company.

„People responsible for the lean program are, above all, to create working conditions so that the employee wants to identify and successfully eliminates the activities, processes, attitudes, behaviors which have no added value for the customer, on a daily basis, all day long”.

Ensure the operators are motivated

In this way, all the previously mentioned points which I heard from my speaker will be accomplished. Our lean department is supposed to work in such a way as to create the linchpin of the “crime scene” (workplace) which is suitable for the operator, line leader, foreman to “want them to want” when running the company.

Now there are plenty of other questions and dilemmas about how to do it. How to lay foundations for this employee? In the following posts I will refer to practical applications at the strategic, operational and tactical level to expand this subject further.

Questions on the way to lean

I would like to finish this post by leaving the lure in this muddy water about the lean. What is the HR department’s lean or continuous improvement program for? What should be the synergy, if there is to be a synergy, between the HR department and the lean office department? Why is the way to achieve the goal so important and does the lean not interfere with the management method through objectives? Who runs the company and what do we mean by this question? There are many riddles to be solved.