Komarov Artem noted that starting and growing your lean manufacturing efforts comes with costs and disruptions. But if everything is done correctly, the profit will be many times higher than the invested funds. The downside of a bad start or giving up on effort is that you don’t notice improvements and may jeopardize the viability of your company. This is a serious business.
What is sustainability?
A sustainable process works without heroic effort, prodding, coaxing, or begging. It happens as a natural course of business. Instead of striving to maintain momentum and avoid backtracking, a sustainable process gives you time to focus on continually improving the process to achieve even better results.
Sustainability on the path to lean manufacturing allows your company to reach its full potential. The speed and intensity may change from time to time, but you are always moving forward. Lack of stability means you will fall back. As I said before, this is like a big rubber band trying to bring the organization back to pre-crisis levels of performance and practice. It just doesn’t stay in place.
With the right direction, training, and the freedom to try new ideas, it will be much easier for you to maintain momentum. Break momentum and restarting becomes very difficult and devastating.
How to define sustainability
What does sustainability look like? This will vary from company to company, but a few examples illustrate the desired state in which lean manufacturing can flourish.
Demonstration of rhythm and flow. Whether you’re running low mix/high volume, high mix/low volume, or anything in between, efficient lean work will work rhythmically and smoothly. To reach this state, you must practice the many methods, tools, and philosophies of Lean. With rhythm and flow, you get predictability and consistency.
The indicators are trending in the right direction. You have a balanced set of metrics that focus on both outcome measures (lagging indicators) and upstream process indicators (leading indicators). Bottom-up measures provide an early warning that you may not achieve the desired results. You should focus not only on point results, but also on trends in results over time. Performance trends tell you if you are getting better and act as a catalyst for continuous improvement.
People are involved. The entire spectrum of people, from the top floor to the production floor, are involved in appropriate ways to support your transition to lean manufacturing. Leaders and managers provide direction and provide insight into what matters. Managers have a tactical perspective and allow improvement actions. Frontline employees learn, develop and are given the opportunity to execute tactical plans and find better ways to get the job done. Everyone has their own role, everyone invests in developing their capabilities, and everyone understands how he affects the client.
Operations are always ready for the client’s visit. Sustainable lean production is always ready for customer visits. There is no need to stop production for half a shift on the eve of the visit. There is no need to go through a special cleaning because this potential client will pass by. When you’re ready for a customer visit, you simply open the door and let them in, no matter the day or shift. Wise organizations make this an important part of their marketing strategy and use this readiness as a key differentiator.
It’s not about finding who screwed up. A sustainable lean organization recognizes the importance of process orientation. What is the state of the processes in which we provide work for our employees? Front line employees are smart. They’ll find a way around the lousy processes. So, the best way to deal with this is to learn the processes, rather than looking for those who screwed up. Involve the people who work in the process so that they are interested in making the process work better. This lays the foundation for a cutting-edge initiative focused on continuous improvement rather than the status quo.
You will probably be able to identify characteristics related to your company that will complete this list. Everything is fine. This is an example of how a sustainable organization takes a lean body of knowledge and applies it using judgment and insight. Make it reflect your organization and your needs.
How can you influence sustainable development?
Sustainability is not achieved passively. Effective Lean Manufacturing is an action-oriented team sport. You make it possible. It doesn’t happen by accident. You can influence the sustainability of your company in four ways:
Be carefull. Remember the saying of a famous politician: «Trust, but verify?» This can be applied to your frugal travel. With respect for people in a mature lean organization comes trust. But that doesn’t mean you’re giving up your responsibility to «know what you know» rather than «think what you know» about the state of lean progress. Be vigilant and vigilant, said Komarov Artem.
Listen. Effective leaders know how and when to listen. Sometimes you may not like what you hear, but you need to get the truth, or at least a different perception. For better or worse, what you hear provides a basis for action and improvement. Remember, no status quo.
Measurement. Develop effective measures to provide baseline and trend information. Measure a few elements that provide deep insights, not many elements that result in a blurry and fragmented resource deployment.
Communicate. Communicate as openly, honestly, and frequently as possible to give people the information they need so they can participate and invest in making improvements that drive the transition to lean. While some communication topics will be common and relevant throughout the organization, other topics will be tailored to the level or function of the employee in the organization. Appropriate knowledge is power for all.
The Lean Way is not static
If you don’t support your lean path, you won’t grow and develop. Your journey will not be static. Of course, you can imagine how dynamic the first stages of the journey are. Everyone has a lot of new ideas, unusual activities, and visual results. It’s easy to pay attention.
But what about the later lean path? A mature lean organization won’t have that much hype. Other «shiny objects» appear and challenge your attention. Are you sticking to the Lean fundamentals, tools, and philosophy that have enabled you to achieve higher levels of productivity, or are you starting to backtrack? This is a challenging time for resilience.
Does effective resilience require you to be an active and vocal cheerleader? Not necessary. In some cases, active fans make sense if they welcome significant improvements, that is, evidence of shifts in the Lean maturity curve and a positive impact on customer satisfaction.
What about «quiet» organizations that don’t place much value on lean manufacturing efforts? They may not use the language of Lean or preach the philosophy of Lean every day, but if they practice Lean effectively, helping their people understand Lean, weaving it into their daily work, and going about their business calmly, getting results and a clear development of the organization, this fine. They are still preserved and growing.
Sometimes the quiet organizations endure while the loud organizations play the lip and may be in real danger of falling back. How you make maintaining your lean path visible, whether outwardly expressive or hidden from you, depends on your judgment and insight from you, your leadership, and your organization.
Reflection is a powerful thing. This article is designed to encourage you to think about the bigger picture, adjust or refine your approach, and use the body of lean knowledge to help your company achieve the success it deserves, summed up Komarov Artem.