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Interesting Discussion Lean Manufacturing Concepts - Is 'Lean' hype?

Is 'Lean' hype?

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Hey guys and gals, I need some help here! The company I work for is in need of change. More than half of the work force has been here for greater than 10 years. Although that produces some very good things, it also creates some negatives. One of those is the introduction of new concepts. The last "lean consultant" I had in here to offer ideas on where we should start left looking like :confused: . Can anyone share with me the success stories witnessed at your locations? Also, anything you did to help sell the ideas to upper management, then to the rest of the staff.

Kevin Mader

One of THE Original Covers!
Staff member
Hello Mike,

Can you tell us a little more on why you think the consultant left looking confused?

It might help in finding a solution to your problem.




Hi Kevin,
he was confused primarily because he was not certain where to start. When I look at the current state of our company we have many different avenues we could address to improve. This could be shop floor layout, reducing set up time for job turnover, handling of material repeatedly or simply to "start thinking smart" rather than continuing to do things the way we are because we always have.

I am trying to introduce lean concepts for two primary reasons. The first is to help be compliant under ISO 9k2k for continual improvement opportunities. Secondly we are hurting financially. The recent econmic downturn has hit us just like any other business and we need to look at methods of operations, both to decrease costs and increase profit margins.

i hope this helps you in your answer
Lean thinking

MIke, there are a couple of ways you could go. First, if $ is tight, find some small project that would yeild quick $. It doesn't have to be much, the important thing is to show immediate impact. This would get managements attention. In the industry, we call this "low hanging fruit". Find as much of it as you can and always do one project at a time. Once management sees this might be a good thing, then introduce them to "lean thinking". This could be as simple as having them read Lean Thinking or possibly The Goal . You might want to enroll them in a "Lean Leadership" class. These are offered throughout the US by a variety of organizations (my company offers one).

One of the biggest problems I see is where someone (called a change agent) attempts to force more change than the organization can absorb. This is just like a baby. You can't start them out on steak immediately.

Hope that helps
Marc said:
OK folks, what are your opinions of 'Lean'?
I subscribe to the concepts of "lean"
I also belong to the advanced manufacturing interest group of ASQ (a fancy term for lean)
Maybe I'm too simplistic. The concepts of lean all seem like just plain common sense to me, similar to "mistake proofing" before Poka Yoke folks started codifying it.

In my mind, the concept of continual improvement encompasses lean wherein an organization constantly strives for more efficiency translated into bottom line profit. Each organization has to approach lean based on its own internal capability and capacity balanced with the requirements of its customers and the practical reality of dealing with and coordinating a multitude of suppliers to create a smooth supply chain. (It ain't easy, McGee!)

Factors of the efficiency can include, but are not limited to,
  • scattered site warehousing or consolidated warehousing (which one to use is dependent on individual circumstances - no easy choices here)
  • cost efficient ground shipment or time efficient air shipment
  • high-speed, high volume production versus on-demand, one-at-a-time production.
  • vertical integration versus outsourcing
  • push versus pull distribution of goods and/or information
  • discerning the real value of an individual task in relation to the entire scope of a process
Bad applications of lean:
Some of my pique for the balance of today may be attributed to a totally unsatisfying 60 minutes spent with a call center over discrepancies between written instructions (or lack thereof) which appear in company website and literature and "reality" as explained by call center operators. It appears from my first brush with this outfit (forced by my health insurance) that their method of "efficiency" and subsequent profit is to put the burden of completing forms for reimbursement on the shoulders of untrained customers with various levels of skill in English comprehension. Thus a form which might be completed correctly by a trained individual is not discovered to be incorrect when completed by a customer until two weeks later when the "system" kicks it out for omissions or errors. However, the problem is compounded by the fact no mention is made anywhere on the main document of the "attachments" (supporting documentation) which ought to accompany the document. The English language in the form appears to be written by someone badly in need of an English as a Second Language course. "You may to refuse such generic substitution."

This company seems to have missed the real point of lean entirely.
I wonder who they would define as their customers?
  • the folks who are forced to deal with them?
  • the insurance moguls who grant them the monopoly?

Rob Nix

Wes Bucey said:
Maybe I'm too simplistic. The concepts of lean all seem like just plain common sense to me, similar to "mistake proofing" before Poka Yoke folks started codifying it.
EXACTLY! You hit a nerve with me. Many of the "new fangled" methods in recent times are simply rehashed "common sense" with new names. Great points Wes.

"Lean" makes great sense simply because being efficient and holding down waste is common sense.

I am going to start marketing a NEW, improved exercise regimen called BTM (Bipedal Transfer Mechanics), not because walking is new, but simply because I have a new name for it.


Doctors, Lawyers, Accoutants, and Engineers

Dear Mike:

This is my $0.01 worth.

Remember visiting your doctor, or lawyer, or accountant. The doctor's office is immaculate. The hospitals are clean. They even wear white coats there.

The same with a lawyer's office or an accountant's office. Ok, they don't wear white coats.

But, visit an engineer's office, and you will see clutter all over and may be trip when you enter! (Ok, some accountant and lawyer's office are also a mess, but they usually hide from view, not where they meet their clients.)

My point? There is a certain pride and work ethic involved that I often think is lacking in the engineering profession. While we pride ourselves (Ich bin engineer) with being highly "analytical", we miss the big picture. The big picture is the company's profitability that you are now talking about.

It starts from common sense concepts - like no clutter. Once you start here, with your own desk, and clean the clutter, you can start doing the same throughout the organization. That is what 9K2K and other lean, mean etc. are all about. The less the clutter, the less the effort to find something. This automatically lower mistakes, lowers costs, and so on. Enough said. Hope this helps.

Charmed :)

P. S. Please use labels! This is highly recommended. But, like Craig Cochran says in his article (See August 2004 articles), don't overdo it and label your stapler, or say this is the Xerox machine, and here's my telephone! Doesn't hurt, you never know, but not recommended. I am an immigrant and now a naturalized US citizen, and didn't know what Yellow Pages meant, when I first heard that term!
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