Lean Implementation

How to Avoid the Pitfalls of Lean Implementation

Christi Beck-Levicki Blog

This 3-part blog series will explore the many pitfalls of implementing a Lean system and what Saline Lectronics is doing to guarantee a successful, Lean implementation.

Lean ImplementationA.  Implementing Lean Tools Without a System

Most companies look to identify opportunities for improvement, especially within Delivery, Quality and Cost, (or all three!). Implementing Lean is a proven methodology to help achieve these results.  In fact, the need for improvement is the main motivator for many companies that initially try to implement Lean. However, to actualize results quickly, these companies tend to take short cuts and lack the discipline to implement an entire Lean system.

Lean should be viewed as an intricate system, visually depicted as a set of gears where all elements need to mesh together in order to work properly. Some companies tend to miss this critical point of intricacy, and view Lean merely as a “set of tools” that can be used individually to promote process improvements. When focused on a quick timeline, many companies go after what’s considered the biggest bang for the buck, and only implement a portion of the system. Without the proper Lean System, many companies are left frustrated because they are not getting the results or improvements expected, and they are unable to sustain even minor improvements over time. The lack of understanding that Lean is a holistic system, coupled with the tendency to short cut an implementation of Lean, is the root cause of why most Lean efforts fail.

B.  Building the System on a Strong Foundation

Lean was originally developed from the Toyota Production System, (TPS) and Toyota uses the analogy of a house to describe the structure of TPS. Lectronics has developed their own Lean House based on the principles of TPS., (fig 1.) We all know that if a house has a weak foundation it can lead to many issues, and that same concept can be applied to Lean. Think of the system as a Lean House with the foundation being stability. Since stability is best achieved in manufacturing with repeatable processes that deliver the same outcome and with limited variation, it is essential that these standards of operation are developed.

If employees are not provided with specific standards on how to perform work, they will develop their own standard. With the best of intentions employees tend to take shortcuts, and may leave out critical steps that could lead to product performance and quality issues. In many instances, operators are unaware of critical quality checks and may inadvertently leave them out.  Additionally, these personalized standards may lead to ergonomic issues at manual stations as the employee may physically strain to perform the work and possibly cause injury.  Without clear, standard processes, stability is lost.  Without stability at the foundation, a lean system is weak and true improvements are also lost.

C.  Utilizing Kaizen to Improve and Stabilize the Foundation

At Saline Lectronics, we have implemented a Kaizen process that builds and strengthens our stable foundation. We have created Process Owners to work as a team with the goal of making improvements to their own processes. These teams have been trained to review each step of the manufacturing process, and then to work together to develop the best practice for each individual process. Any revised processes are reviewed with Engineering to ensure that no critical aspects of the product have been violated. Ergonomics and the best use of motion are also reviewed. Once thoroughly vetted, the revised processes are then documented and tried as a pilot system.

Once the revised process has been de-bugged and implemented, a final version of Standard Work is put in place. Once the team begins performing the Standard Work, they are consistently encouraged to recommend better methods where appropriate.  This cycle of reviewing and improving guarantees that the best process is utilized, and also maintains stability. This Kaizen standardizes Lectronics’ processes and re-cements the stable, secure base for the Lean House (system) to be built upon.

Stay tuned for our next blog post where we will focus on the critical elements needed for the actual construction of a successful Lean House.