BLOG Cimlogic Solutions- How to: Make LEAN Work Part One

Post by admin on Monday 13th April

LEAN Manufacturing in the UK Market Place


Recently I wrote a white paper on Lean Manufacturing which looked at incorporating MES solutions to enhance your existing LEAN initiative.

Whilst researching for references on the topic, I noticed I could only find American examples of Lean implementation. Considering the UK manufacturing industry is overflowing with Lean solutions and initiatives, isn’t it odd that none of these great examples are publicised?

It’s almost as if we are too ‘British’ to promote our own achievements or too ‘protective’ about sharing our implementation experiences. I’m a great believer that by sharing our experiences and implementations, we can gather more momentum and gain greater achievements in a shorter period of time.

But, perhaps one of the reasons for the lack of searchable literature is down to the fact that many businesses only go so far as to invest (albeit modestly) in their Lean program and not in the external promotion of it.

Experience has taught me that investment in Lean is limited, and not something that’s widely endorsed within UK manufacturing.

The big players in Lean are the Japanese or American firms that have UK interests. These companies have a certain ethos, they foster the development of continuous improvement and see it as a strategic part of their company’s business plan.

For British Manufacturers, Lean programs need to have true buy-in from the top and not just a ‘token-gesture’ agreement because ‘it’s the way forward’. There are two inhibitors to implementing a decent Lean program – funding and effort. If you can agree that both are required and available, then you will do well.

Lean is a multi-pronged approach and covers every department within any business. From production to HR, from planning and logistics to R&D/NPD, IT Departments to laboratories. No area should be ignored or be allowed not to participate.

However, people are often ‘given’ the task of being the sole Lean implementer, all effort is exclusively theirs, and sadly, any failings that prevail are also down to them. Instead, this approach of being a Lean champion should be an accolade and time within your normal role should be afforded.

So, where do you start? Most start with initiatives such as 5S and Kaizen on the shop floor and after a while, sometimes years after, transfer that to the office environment.

While neither of these is wrong, consideration should be given to the ‘one in, all in’ approach. You will gain more momentum if the implementation is wide-spread and not focussed on one area in isolation. That’s not to say you shouldn’t have a Centre of Excellence, just have one in each area! Something to be proud of and show off to the other departments.

The moral here: Don’t run before you can walk and consider the education and ability to absorb the new methods as you apply each practice.

Think of the practicalities of introducing lean practices, like 6Sigma, where an alternative Problem Solving method could be utilised, or having everyone generate kaizen burst without having the investment to carry out the suggestions, or even the man-power!

Do one thing, do it right and promote it around the business, not just internally.

Share your successes and experiences, and allow other British manufacturers to follow in your Lean footsteps!

Let people know you are Lean Champions.

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