Do you want to become a lean organisation but find the theory and off-the-shelf tools impenetrable as a small manufacturer? Learning the ‘What’, ‘What Else’ and ‘How’ of lean is all about putting it into context, says Steve Wilkinson.
It’s a term we hear bandied about all the time, but what exactly is ‘lean manufacturing’? How can something developed by Toyota for car manufacturing in the 1960s be useful to a Lancashire SME making furniture or textiles in 2023?
If you asked me to take you on a tour of the ideal ‘lean’ manufacturing operation, you would see a highly organised workplace with all manner of visual triggers, controls and management boards. But that’s just the visible result.
At its most simple, being lean means continually removing activities that don’t add value (waste) from your business so you can give the customer exactly what they want, on time, every time, at the lowest possible cost.
Continuous improvement is a key principle, which means developing what we call a ‘learning culture’ – a way of working that prides itself on problem solving. Lean is an effective way of continually identifying and solving problems through learning behaviours. That’s it.
Some of the many benefits include:
- Effective identification of problems
- Improved flow
- Reduced day-to-day variability
- Reduced waste (not just physical waste but time, labour and other factors)
- Better information
- Standardised improvement
- Better Quality, Cost and Delivery than your competitors.
Do you struggle to find lean training you can actually relate to?
So how do you go about becoming a lean specialist in your organisation?
A quick search online will bring up an endless array of courses that offer an off-the-shelf understanding of lean theory and practice. The problem is, most of them provide the tools without any real context.
Lean courses tend to be attuned to companies who can devote significant resources continuous improvement. Most SME manufacturers cannot do this.
In your organisation, your lean champion may be juggling a number of additional roles. That means lean specialists in SMEs need more than just the tools – they need to be able to exhibit the right behaviours and coach them in others, so they become habit and routine throughout your organisation.
Introducing Lean Champion
This is why I’m delighted to introduce our Lean Champion course to Lancashire SME manufacturers from June 2023.
Lean Champion is a fully-funded, two-day hands-on training course designed specifically for those taking on the role of continuous improvement specialist in their organisation, or those who already have that role but want to increase their skills and knowledge.
We take all the tools in the lean toolkit and put them into context for improving quality, cost and delivery specifically in the SME manufacturing environment.
Crucially, we won’t be spending time spoon-feeding you with theory. What we’ll really be focusing on over the two days is how the tools and theories fit together in the real-world, using interactive games and activities.
After two full days, you’ll have developed the foundations of lean leadership – not only will you know your 5S from your TIMWOODS (see below), you’ll come out being able to convince people of the value of both.
How it works
Lean Champion is delivered in three stages we’ve named the ‘What’, the ‘What Else’ and the ‘How’:
1. THE WHAT: Identifying and prioritising continuous improvement opportunities
The first step to becoming a Lean Champion is to understand the fundamental process of implementing lean in the real world. We’ll explore the Plan-Do-Check-Act (PDCA) cycle and the method of rapid continuous improvement events, each with the end goal of improving quality, cost and delivery.
2. THE WHAT ELSE: The tools to implement and sustain lean improvements
The next step is the tools-based part. Here you’ll learn the ins-and-outs of all the lean buzzwords – TIMWOODS, 5S, SMED, Visual Management, Standard Work, and so on.
3. THE HOW: Engaging others in lean activities, sharing the learning and forming habits
Finally, we’ll explore the kinds of questions you should be asking, the behaviours you should exhibit and the coaching routines you can use to engage others. For many organisations this is the biggest challenge. You can understand all the methods and tools you like, but ultimately a learning culture cannot exist until it becomes habit and routine for everyone.
How each day pans out
Over the course of the two-day programme, we will come to understand that there are two broad kinds of waste we look to eliminate when implementing lean:
· Non-value add activities around the factory, also known as the 8 Wastes or TIMWOODS
· Variability, or the everyday ‘unevenness’ of things through a lack of control or standardisation.
At the end of each day, we’ll gamify the process of dealing with one of these types of waste. Day One will culminate in a ‘Lean Lego Simulation’, where we will re-create the process of identifying and eliminating non-value add activities on a production line. Using Lego, we’ll see the build-up of waste in real-time and work together to improve flow.
On Day Two, we’ll look at eliminating and reducing sources of variability within a process through the medium of a medieval catapult. We’ll work on understanding different causes of variability and what’s critical to making consistent products that hit the target every time (in this case literally!).