In order to minimize waste and maximize customer value, it is imperative that businesses begin to run lean if they’re not doing so already. Aside from cost reduction, the principles of lean are meant to greatly improve companies from top to bottom. Lean is not a program or quick “cost cutting measure”; rather, a way of thinking that’s infiltrated manufacturing, healthcare, government, etc.
Lean is one of the most misunderstood words in our manufacturing environment. If you ask people that work on the floor they will tell you it is all about doing more with less people. If you ask people working in the office they will tell you it is all about the people out on the floor. If you ask me, no matter where you work, it is all about focus on improving your processes and the “relentless pursuit of the elimination of waste”.
Lean is not a quick solution when a company is in a crisis. It is a different way of doing things and it takes TIME. It also takes 100% of management’s commitment and the willingness to learn from your mistakes. Over 80% of companies fail to successfully implement lean and in my opinion it is because they are looking for a quick fix and quickly become impatient.
Successful companies focus on improving their processes and the results will come. In today’s business environment that is easier said than done. Lean is also about change and that is something that MAU knows a great deal about. We help local, national and international organizations change the way they manage, analyze and utilize their workforce using lean principles. Over the next several months we will take a look at some of the key lean tools that we are utilizing to drive improvements for our customers.
The first person to truly run lean was Henry Ford. He revolutionized the auto industry and created an assembly line in an effort to streamline production of automobiles. He incorporated specially designed machines, go/no-go gauges, etc. so that all parts were assembled on one long line before they were put together to form an automobile. This was revolutionary, as most business at that time grouped their machines by process, causing more steps when it came to final assembly of a product.
Lean organizations produce more for their customers, while cutting the amount of resources that are being used. Not only is this business practice cost effective, but it’s better for the environment as well. According to the Lean Enterprise Institute,
“A lean organization understands customer value and focuses its key processes to continuously increase it. The ultimate goal is to provide perfect value to the customer through a perfect value creation process that has zero waste”.
While “perfect value” and “zero waste” may seem like unattainable goals, most businesses are able to reduce waste from some part of their organization. Lean organizations tend to be more profitable than traditional business models, and rely on less human effort, less space, less money, etc. to get things done. Those who run lean are also able to respond more quickly to customers ever-changing needs. Further, lean businesses manage information effectively with few errors.
In order for a business to successfully run lean and reduce waste, all levels of the company must be on board- from management, to hourly workers, and everyone in between. It is much better to develop lean processes across all levels of your company, then to have pockets of your company that are lean, and others that are not.
While lean fits well within manufacturing, these principles are applicable across a myriad of different businesses. If you’re in need of reducing waste and adopting lean techniques within your business, please understand that it takes time and hard work to move away from the traditional business model.
Stay tuned to learn more about lean, as well as how you may implement lean practices within your own business!
-Written by Bill Wolfe, MAU General Manager – Kimberly Clark