Transformation into a lean state takes many forms and has re-invented itself many times. There have been an excruciating amount of consultants who have brought their package to companies but have not been able to deliver a sustainable and regenerating culture. While there are success stories, the basic elements of lean transformations are missing in many plans. First, you need to accept that what you are doing is not where you want to be in an optimal state. While we have attempted to bring efficiencies into the market place, most industries have failed. If a company is not turning double digit productivity rate increases, delighting the customers with on time deliveries 100% of the time, and are focusing away from the conforming product mindset to controlled processes that guarantee superior quality, then they have missed the transformation.
Fact 1: Lean transformation never ends. Being lean continually presents more opportunities with every re-generation. That does not mean that companies will never see results or that results are slow in coming. I have turned companies from losing millions to turning profitable results within a year. Transformation in lean educates us and with every completion results in another quest for improvement.
Fact 2: An unsafe environment can never sustain lean processes. A workplace that requires a person to act differently to protect themselves from injury or ergonomics cannot be productive. Safety must be always provided at all costs. No one should ever work in an environment where they cannot return home in the same condition they came to work.
Fact 3: Forget what you think you know. There are a series of actions you may embark to complete. There are significant gaps in process standardization that exist with the more popular lean tools. We analyze processes and production lines and create value stream maps. However, those maps are developed by what engineering and a select team believes executes. In reality, there are multiple people, shifts and supervisors that may not execute the processes exactly the same and those differences can affect flow and quality. Re-examine all the elements of the process and create the map. Then verify through process observation that everyone executes exactly to the same methodologies.
Fact 4: Mistake proofing needs to be implemented in as many areas as possible. AS we develop processes and tooling we must remove as much variability as possible. Every piece of variation in process and tooling will contribute to higher CPKs and lower process yields.
Fact 5: The process of creating a more profitable company is based on a hierarchy that is founded in quality, ethics, safety, employee empowerment and enrichment and lean standard business processes. Quality is not a stand-alone entity and its greatest impact is customer satisfaction. While there are inherent risks with any process, they can be eliminated or minimized by creating robust processes and products, eliminating assignable variation causes, and minimizing normal process variation to acceptable limits. On time delivery, lead-time reduction, and cost reduction are the major benefactors of robust processes. Excellence should be an assumed customer expectation. Product robustness can be attained in all business processes including but not limited to procurement, environmental health and safety, engineering, training, financial systems human resources, and customer relations.
Fact 6: Benchmarking is key to leading any industry. When we benchmark our completion and like industries, we inherently learn different elements of processes. It is this learning that shortens the trial and error factors that make process development and stabilization a long process. Learn from others and become a repository of knowledge.
Fact 7: Talk to your customers and regularly be evaluated by them. We may perceive that we are delighting customers but in reality they may only be marginally satisfied. Customers will explain the results they see in inefficiencies in your processes and they will prioritize them for you based on the impact to them.
Fact 8: Let the people working the processes design them. It is the employees and associates that know the processes and the difficulties with the execution of them. They understand any the day to day process variations and always offer constructive improvements to those processes.
Fact 9: Always seek the proper root cause of problems. Do not treat the symptoms and drive to the true root cause. There are several tools that allow root cause analysis and they all aspire to force you away from treating the results of variation and focus you on the cause.
Fact 10: You will not succeed without employee engagement and empowerment. Leadership needs to listen and react to employees and their suggestions and concerns. Close the loop with them and communicate. I have led organizations that are self-run by hourly associates and only supervisor ratios exceeded 70 to 1. Employees decided the shops priorities and developed process improvements that saved the company from financial distress. Employees are your greatest asset and they need to be empowered to take control. Leadership should be removing roadblocks, elevating their training, and rewarding their successes.
Finally, ethical behavior is King. Employees need to believe in their company and they can only do that if we always act ethically. Never betray their trust and always question the actions you take. You are leaders and therefore need to set the example.