Posts Tagged ‘lean manufacturing’

Lean Change Management

November 30, 2010 Leave a comment

I have always loved Lean Manufacturing technique. Although I have only read about its application in the manufacturing process, I have never thought that this could work so great in managing change. The following discussion is based on an article published by change consultants of A.T. Kearney. I am so grateful that I came across it and I am thankful to them for publishing such as excellent idea.

Please note that the idea discussed here is not mine. This idea belongs to the respective authors/consultants of AT Kearney so full credit goes to them. I am sharing this excellent management idea with you that’s all.

The main focus of using lean technique to manage the transformation process by reducing waste of resources to the absolute minimum while ensuring that it moves in steady momentum from one stage to the next.

For this transformation planning is done at the headquarter level and in a top down fashion. HQ is the visionary and creates the plan. These plans are then handed down to the strategic business units to be carried out in their respective area. These plans include the key strategies, roadmaps, milestones, decisions and timing.

If you have read my previous post then you will know the principles of the lean manufacturing. Below they are compared with managing change.

Stakeholder involvement: All stakeholders such as suppliers, shareholders are involved on the transformation process which helps to gain a broad perspective of the change and identify any shortcomings early. This ensures that the process is completed in the best possible way. This also provides a lot of transparency.

Just in time:  Core components of deployment are divided into tasks which are further broken down (business unit level) into smaller manageable work streams and stages to ensure that the right work is done in right time. These work streams are assigned to teams to be implemented. Similar to Just-in-Time, during implementation teams do not start the next task until the current one is completed.

Small Lot production:  Small work streams ensure that lead times between jobs are as low as possible. Just like lean manufacturing process this helps to move the work smoothly in a steady speed from one stage to another.

Continuous Improvement: Milestones are continually updated and improved to reflect learning. Unnecessary activities are discarded from the process. Central leadership teams are there to monitor this when teams completed a set of tasks. They produce periodical maintenance report which are send to top levels of hierarchy for overall assessment.

Employee empowerment: Responsibilities of work streams are shared among team member in order to ensure a more flexible workforce.

Ongoing Performance Measurement: Key Performance Indicators (KPI) and metrics are continuously used to determine how successful the process is at a certain point during the implementation stage. This also reveals any issues and risks at an earlier stage and helps to revise the process.

I believe this technique will work really well. Especially now as most companies, affected by the economic downturn, will undergo some major transformation processes to align their business with the new strategy for the coming year. They will be interested in a technique that has higher chance of successfully managing the transformation while being cost effectiveness at the same time. What do you think? Feel free to comment.


The Lean Business

October 26, 2010 Leave a comment

Lean Operations has become a very popular practice within business organisations these days. The advantages of lean operations are several but its ability to cut down costs significantly is probably the main reason why companies are so interested in it. Today I introduce you to lean operations and give you an overview of it. In the next post I will talk about how lean operations can be an important part of change management.

By definition lean operations is a  manufacturing technique which aims to reduce all sorts of waste within a business process and, hence, in doing so making the process faster, cheaper and improve the quality of the product at the same time. The means of achieving a lean process is through Just-In-Time (JIT) method. Just-in-time is a planning and controlling method where the goods or services are produced exactly when in they are required. By doing so all inventory/ buffer/work-in-process goods or materials are eliminated from the system which speeds up the business process and makes it more efficient.  Lean operations and Just-in-Time was originated by Toyota Corporation within their car manufacturing plant sometime after World War II in order to produce higher quality car to match the US counterpart. This system revolutionised the global manufacturing system and for that it is often referred to as “Toyota Production System”. Today Just-In-Time technique can seen in action in many businesses across Asia, Europe and US.

Following are the benefits that can result from lean operations if successfully implemented:

  • Reduce cost (by eliminating anything ‘extra’)
  • Minimise process disruption
  • Efficient and faster process (low queue, setup, wait-time, transit time, lead time etc.)
  • Introduce flexibility
  • Improves product or service quality
  • Improves workers’ skill and increases dedication towards work due to involving nature
  • Management becomes more committed
  • Better suppliers

A few critical factors that will ensure the success of such a system in an organization is that firstly the management has to be committed. They have to have a vision of achieving success through lean operations and must take every necessary step to ensure that. Next comes employee training. If employees are not well trained to adapt to the changes happening to their work system then they may not be able adjust perfectly in this ‘new environment’. And finally just like any other organizational change, lean operations must be started out small – in one department or line within the organization first and then gradually moving to the other places.