A Publication of WTVP

The following scenario is often repeated in manufacturing facilities throughout Illinois. A mid-level production supervisor or engineer receives a refresher session on key elements of lean manufacturing. Energized by the experience, he returns to the plant armed with several new ideas for improvement. The supervisor forms a team to map the value stream of a key product line or process. A kaizen event is conducted to facilitate several new time- and cost-saving methods for producing goods at lower cost, with more flexibility and higher quality. Feeding on the enthusiasm of the kaizen team, the supervisor takes his recommendation to his manager, but he’s cautioned that a new product launch is behind schedule and all resources need to be focused on another project. Thus, a promising and potentially lucrative initiative heads to the back burner.

Then there are the companies whose leaders drive change, who participate in the decision to implement lean, and who shepherd the development of a deployment strategy to ensure the benefits of lean can be sustained. Each company’s approach should be customized based on the current status of its operations and culture, but leadership commitment is the one constant that almost always will assure success.

The goal of a lean enterprise deployment strategy is to establish a game plan that will put the company on a path to enable sustainability. While there’s no single best strategy, each usually includes variations of these phases: planning and executive development; building the foundation for a lean culture; implementing lean improvements; and evaluation, continuous improvement, and sustaining a lean culture.

In part one of a four-part series, we look at planning and executive development. The goals of Phase 1 activities are to help company leadership understand lean enterprise principles; understand their role in the lean deployment process; and provide tools for decision-making, communication, and tracking lean deployment progress and results.

• The company’s leaders participate in the decision to implement lean, receive foundation training in lean principles, and participate in development of the company’s lean deployment strategy.
• One person typically is selected to be corporate leader of the lean transformation process. A hands-on approach to guiding the implementation typically best demonstrates the commitment.
• Conduct lean diagnostic assessments for each facility to identify extent of progress toward lean operations and key gaps.
• Specific facilities and operational areas within facilities are identified to be targeted as lean implementation models.
• Service needs are identified for each targeted facility (number of lean overview training courses, manufacturing and administrative process value stream map development, Kaizen facilitation, etc.).
• Overall timelines are developed for service delivery with tentative timelines for services at specific facilities.
• Company leaders are provided with tools for use in communicating with employees regarding the change process and tracking progress during implementation, as well as criteria for selecting value stream managers and lean champions, etc.
• Specific objectives and metrics are developed that will be used in tracking lean implementation and resulting impacts on company operations. IBI