With more and more companies implementing lean processes to improve the way business is done, it is important to take some time to look at how this process can be improved. Many companies attempt to run as a lean facility, only to find that they aren’t making the progress that they had hoped. Starting down the path toward a lean facility is difficult, but it can be done with hard work and dedication. Looking at the following five steps to lean improvement will help any facility improve their outcomes.
Obtain Management Commitment
When attempting to implement lean standards, it is important to have not just approval from management, but their full commitment. They must be dedicated to seeing this through until it is successful, even though it will likely take months before any significant and measurable results are seen. This commitment from management must come from the executive levels in order to ensure the mid level managers will have the momentum necessary to see this through.
Collect Current State Information
It is impossible to effectively make plans for improvement if you don’t know where you’re currently standing. Taking the time to collect information about how things are currently done will help to prepare for the necessary changes which are to come. This step could take days or weeks depending on the specifics of the jobs, but it is well worth the investment in time to get this starting point data. In addition to helping with the planning of changes and improvements, this data will also be invaluable in measuring the success of the lean implementation over the course of the next several months or years.
Plan & Implement Changes
At this point it is time to start planning and implementing changes to improve the way work is done. Deciding which changes should be done first and which ones can wait is part of this phase. It is important to focus on changes which will make noticeable improvements as quickly as possible at this stage in order to build confidence with both the employees and management. Most companies also won’t want to put too many changes in at once so that there isn’t confusion.
Test & Standardize Improvement
Once changes have been put in place, they need to be tested to ensure the results are what everyone hoped for. If everything goes well, the change can be standardized so that everyone is working with the new changes which were put in place during this change. If there are problems, adjustments can be made until it is working the way it is supposed to.
Rinse and Repeat
The last step is perhaps the most important. It is actually starting the change process over with the next set of changes. If companies don’t have an ongoing cycle of improvement and change, they won’t be able to stick with the lean processes. Scheduling the next set of changes should be done immediately after the previous batch is completed, or if there is sufficient staff for it, the next set can actually begin before the previous ones are fully completed.