Implementing a Successful Lean Facility

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slowMany facilities which want to run according to the lean standards run into a few problems during implementation. First, the person who first proposed this change is often quite excited about the opportunity, because they had just learned about the benefits of lean standards. The second problem which will have to be overcome is that most people working in the facility will be resistant to the change. People are often against any change because they feel that it will be difficult, or impact the negatively. With the lean standards, however, it can be even worse because people mistakenly think that implementing lean standards is typically followed by laying off employees.

To implement a successful lean facility it is important to focus on overcoming these two main difficulties. This can be done with the support of management throughout the facility, but it needs to start with the executive leadership team.

Slow Down and Move with Care

The individual heading up the lean implementation needs to start by taking a step back and focusing on the quality, rather than moving it forward quickly. He should organize a program committee to get the input of people from management throughout the facility. This will take some time, which at this earliest stage is actually a good thing. Keep in mind that implementing a major change like this to a facility is going to have very long reaching impacts, which is why it is so important to get it right the first time.

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With the other members of the committee, develop a plan for each of the 5 S’s in the 5S methodology. Depending on the structure of the company, there could be several plans for each S, which will be tailored to each area of the business. Creating these plans, having them reviewed by other members of the committee and taking the time to ensure they are well formulated is absolutely essential.

Overcoming Resistance to Change

5S-guide-and-posterWhile the management team can come in and force everyone to adopt the changes they develop, that is not the best way to implement a successful lean facility. In fact, it will actually make it more difficult to get everyone on board. Rather than using force, take a slower, but more effective approach. Start by including members from every team in the planning phases. As these individuals provide input and learn about the many benefits of the lean methodologies, they will start supporting it more and more. This will spread through the value adding employees quickly.

As changes are being put in place, make sure to provide enough training, not only ensure everyone is aware of what is going on, and how to do it, but also so they truly understand why it is being done. This training is the most important part of any lean implementation, and can truly make the difference between struggling with every step and enjoying a smooth transition. Working with each individual in the facility to ensure they understand and support the changes can make all the difference in the world for this type of massive company change.

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Antonio Ferraro

On behalf of Creative Safety Supply based in Portland, OR, I strive to provide helpful information to create safer and more efficient industrial work environments. My knowledge base focuses primarily on practices such as 5S, Six Sigma, Kaizen, and the Lean mindset. I believe in being proactive and that for positive change to happen, we must be willing to be transparent and actively seek out areas in need of improvement. An organized, safe, and well-planned work space leads to increased productivity, quality products and happier workplace. Connect with Antonio on Google+