June 5, 2022

The Benefits of Adopting Lean Manufacturing

The intelligent manufacturing organization will work to adopt lean manufacturing as a complete system. In a world of increasingly scarcer resources, we all need to adopt approaches to eliminate waste. In particular, the eighth waste of human potential.
Integrating Lean

Our topic two weeks ago was a recommendation to adopt the B Impact Assessment as the framework for building a business operating system (BOS).  An essential element of an efficient and effective BOS is integrating lean manufacturing throughout your organization.  The integration should have tentacles reaching into every aspect of the internal and external impact of the company.  It is not a system where we can only adopt what we like but must be fully embraced as a complete package.

"Great things are done by a series of small things brought together." – Vincent Van Gogh
Not Appreciating What I Experienced

In the early 1990s, I worked for Michigan Automotive Compressor, Inc., a joint venture of Toyota Industries Corporation and Denso located in Parma, MI.  The manufacturing operation fully integrated the Toyota Production System (TPS).  The work was not a good match for me personally and professionally at that point in my career.  I did not fully appreciate the "system" that I was immersed in while working at the company.  Many years later, when learning more about the history and philosophies of TPS, I fully understood what I was fortunate to have experienced.  I often wished that my other employers would have adopted lean manufacturing using the advice of Taiichi Ohno, the founder of TPS, of "doing it all the way." Reflecting on the experience, it was "a series of small things brought together" that allowed greatness to emerge, as suggested by Van Gogh.

Lean and the Humanist Manufacturing Framework

Lean focuses on eliminating waste, aligning well with the humanist manufacturing framework.  An eighth waste added by some to the original seven from Tachi Ohno is that of unused talent.  When we underutilize employee skills, we lessen their potential to make a more significant positive impact.

Charles Intrieri did an excellent job of concisely identifying an overview of TPS (italicized words are his descriptions):

1. Base your management decisions on a long-term philosophy, even at the expense of short-term financial goals.  The humanist manufacturing operation will align with this principle, focusing on a long-term commitment to human well-being.

2. Create continuous process flow to bring problems to the surface.  In an ideal TPS system, you would have zero inventory on hand from the initial input to the final output for every production part manufactured in your operation.  One-piece flow means that each process takes the component from the previous operation to complete its step in the process.  As a result, identifying a defect occurs immediately, eliminating more significant numbers that may require rework or disposal in a conventional batch production system.

3. Use "Pull" system to avoid overproduction. Only producing the minimum volume to meet customer needs eliminates the potential for later disposal of obsolete products.

4. Level out the workload (heijunka).  ("Work like a tortoise, not the hare").  The objective is a production pace that produces products at the rate of customer on-demand requirements (Takt time).

5. Build a culture of stopping to fix problems, to get quality right the first time.  Gone are the days of continuing to keep a production line going at all costs.  Instead, the norm should immediately stop production and eliminate that issue upon recognizing a problem.

6. Standardized tasks are the foundation for continuous improvements and employee empowerment.  In addition, standardization of a continually improving process allows for more efficient production.

7. Use Visual Control so no problems are hidden.  Strong organizations create an environment where the system breakdown is the issue and not the workforce allowing for comfort in raising production issues upon identification.

8. Use only reliable, thoroughly tested technology that serves your people and process.  Innovation is necessary as companies evolve.  However, innovation should follow a development process that enhances the operators and their work to meet customer requirements.

9. Grow leaders who thoroughly understand the work, live philosophy and teach it to others.  Leadership development at all levels of the organization is essential to supporting the needs of employees to be their best selves.

10. Develop exceptional people and teams who follow your company's philosophy.  Innovative companies understand the value of continual development to maximize the full potential of each employee and, collectively, the entire workforce.

11. Respect your extended network of partners and suppliers by challenging them and helping them improve.  Likewise, the organization's external stakeholders are an essential element of the company and should receive the same level of support to achieve their full potential.

12. Go to Gemba and see for yourself to thoroughly understand the situation (Genchi Genbutsu).  Walking in the shoes of those doing the work is the only way to comprehend what is occurring.

13. Make decisions slowly by consensus (use cross-functional teams), thoroughly considering all options; implement decisions rapidly.  Putting in the upfront work to thoroughly vet improvements leads to more robust implementation.

14. Become a learning organization through relentless reflection (hansei) and continuous improvements (Kaizen).  We must develop a lifelong learning mindset where evaluating our past performance allows for enhancing future work.   Furthermore, we need to monitor continually innovation that occurs beyond the walls of our factories, both within our industry and in other sectors.

TPS aligns well with net-zero initiatives because eliminating waste is the end goal.  The objective is to create a continuous improvement mindset where the organization is continually becoming more efficient and effective.  

Image Credit:  Daniel Smyth on Pexels
Key Takeaway

The intelligent manufacturing organization will work to adopt lean manufacturing as a complete system.  In a world of increasingly scarcer resources, we all need to adopt approaches to eliminate waste – in particular, the eighth waste of human potential.  Human life is too precious not to be entirely utilized while we all grace this beautiful earth.

Next Step

Those with limited knowledge of lean manufacturing would benefit from reading The Goal: A Process of Ongoing Improvement by Eliyahu Goldratt.  It is a fun read that does a great job of helping the reader understand lean manufacturing through the experience of Alex Rogo, a fictional plant manager.  He faces a deadline of three months to turn around his plant or face it being closed down.

My Gratitude

I am grateful to Taiichi Ohno, who is considered the "father of the Toyota Production System." When he joined Toyota Motor Company, the entire Japanese auto industry lagged far behind the American auto manufacturers.  He built his lean approach based on his experience in touring the Ford Motor Company facilities with his host Henry Ford and on what he learned from supermarkets in the U.S. to revitalize automotive manufacturing in Japan,  work that led to the improvement of the global automotive industry over the subsequent years.  

Sneak Peek

Next week's blog will look at the benefits of adopting E. Edwards Deming's 14 Points for Management into the humanist manufacturing framework.  

To learn more about our work or read more blog posts, visit emmanuelstratgicsustainability.com.

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