When is a Company Lean?

lean-manufacturingWhen people are looking at implementing a lean manufacturing standard in their business they often make the mistake of trying to figure out when their company is lean.  Becoming a lean facility is not an end goal which can be reached and then you can move on to something else. 

It is a process of ongoing improvement which should become a part of your facilities overall culture of how business is done.  The main concept of becoming a lean facility is improving the productivity and eliminating waste.  These are things which can be done continuously without ever getting to an absolutely perfect result.

Lean Certifications

There are lean certifications which individual can achieve, but these have more to do with learning the concepts behind the lean philosophy than they do actually becoming a lean company.  In fact, many of the people who achieve these certifications fail to ever implement what they learned while taking any classes. 

This is why it is so important to first understand that this is not a project to be completed, but a concept to be applied to all aspects of the business in a truly ongoing way.

Implementing Ongoing Improvements

It can be difficult to get people on board for an idea which really has no end in sight.  That’s why you should work to implement as many of the improvements as you can as quickly as possible at the beginning of your efforts to become a leaner facility. 

When you can show people at all levels of your business that the concepts learned in the lean manufacturing standard are useful and can result in real improvements, you will be more likely to get increased buy in from both management and the front line workers.

You can then put in processes to constantly evaluate and improve all of the different functions that your business does.  Before taking on any new work, there should be a well defined process for how it can be done in the most efficient way possible to avoid waste.  Once you’ve put a new work stream in, come back to it after a month or two to see if it is working the way you envisioned. 

If there are areas for improvement, take the necessary steps to further eliminate waste.  With an ongoing improvement plan you can be confident that the processes of tomorrow will always be more efficient, safer and produce less waste than those you’re using today.

Celebrate Success

The fact that you will never be done implementing your lean strategies can sometimes be depressing because it will feel like you are constantly working to be more efficient without ever having a true end in your sights.  This is why it is important to celebrate all of your successes in your journey to becoming a more lean facility. 

When you make a change which increases your efficiency, you should recognize it as a victory.  The more improvements which can be made, the better your facility will function in a continuous way which will help your profitability for years to come.

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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+