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Sustainable Lean Manufacturing

March 20, 2009

The toughest nut to crack in putting Lean Manufacturing’s excellent ideas into practice is executing organizational change and sustaining that change. After the initial mind-set change in the organization, the sound principles of Lean Manufacturing are implemented and cemented in place by a set of Lean Manufacturing run rules and procedures. The factory is lean. But, wait. It is two years later and we have new personnel with the traditional business-as-usual agenda in charge. The factory gets fat again by overloading the factory in the quest for revenue, expediting parts as serviceability slides downward, inflating cycle time, worshipping throughput, and thus being forced to use frequent overtime. Just like food diets for people, weight is lost and then gained right back again. I have seen this at many factories where cycle time was cut by at least 50% only to regress to the old performance a few years later. What about all those Lean run rules and practices? How can we stop them from fading? One thought is to use a factory simulation tool to capture and maintain these run rules and procedures. Make it the centerpiece of the Lean Manufacturing structure before, during, and after the Lean Manufacturing effort. When the business-as-usual crowd comes in and forces their so-called “operational improvements”, crank up the model and show all the stake holders the damage of Fat Manufacturing. Keep that slim factory shape forever and improve it as time goes by.

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