Lean Techniques and Their Organizational Influence Essay

Lean Techniques and Their Organizational Influence Paul Ainsworth This review of related literature examines the necessity to analysis organizational needs and addresses those needs with the appropriate lean method. The idea of an organization going or becoming “lean” continues to attract organizational leaders. However, its extent of application and lack of preparatory analysis have created skepticism about the value of lean techniques. Misinterpretation of lean method capabilities and organizational needs results in perceived failure of lean initiatives.

Literature selected for this review reflects the authors’ practical background in lean echniques and real world application, implementation and success of various lean methods. Lean initiative successes follow a common thread of analysis of organizational problems, matching lean methods to the problems and organizational leadership commitment to lean initiatives. Lean Manufacturing The misunderstanding and misinterpretation of the Lean concept continues after 50 years. Lean has many elements to address and influence the different aspects of business needs.

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Proper evaluations and measurements will give a true picture of the impact and value of specific Lean methods. Lean manufacturing is the belief that the removal of waste in the production of products or the delivery of services will increase productivity, increase quality, and decrease costs. The concepts of lean originated in Japan after the Second World War. They laid the lean foundation with observations that clutter in the workplace resulted in an increase in lost and damaged material and more time spent looking for material.

In the beginning years, lean manufacturing was applied solely to manufacturing. Years later, people realized that with slight modifications, lean was adapted to the service industry. As important as understanding what lean manufacturing (lean) is, it is equally important to understand what lean is not. Lean is not an event that needs scheduling. Lean is a philosophy that strives for continuous improvement to become so habitual that its exercise is unconscious. Lean is more than charts and checklists. Lean is tapping into employees desire to have meaningful contributions to the organization.

An understanding of lean shifts organizations away from results driven management and towards process focused management. Following processes will develop habits organization’s culture. A successful lean organization is not defined by the actions it takes, but by its culture. A lean organizational culture will continually act in a lean manner, while an organization without a lean culture can only achieve short-term success through individual lean actions or events. There are many facets to lean. Some important elements are precursors to lean implementation.

Before an organization Jumps onto the lean bandwagon, they need to determine whether the organization will commit to a lean philosophy. Without total commitment from the highest position to the floor supervisors, the company’s lean efforts will not be ustainable for any long period. Those lean efforts then become Just an event that happened at the company. The company became another in the long list of organizations for whom lean did not work. Lack of commitment is the number one reason organizations fail.

Failure to commit all areas of the organization to lean develops multiple philosophies, which will erode any good done by lean implementation back to the way things were before the initiatives. Lean Techniques 5S, considered the foundational technique upon which all other techniques are built, was the starting point for Japanese manufacturing after the Second World War. Most companies begin with 5S implementation before implementing six sigma or other lean tools. The 5S’s represent five sequential steps that have a beginning but the last step closes a loop forming a process of continual improvement.

The five steps are sort, set in order, scrub, standardize, and sustain. Sort refers to assessing items in a specific area and determining whether that item has any value to the process being where it is. Some items may have value in the location but not in the quantities currently stored. Removal of unnecessary items can include anything that clutters and hinders efficient flow of production or services. Set in order addresses the location of the remaining items. Material and tools need to be located with a priority given to the most used to the least used. The goal is economy of motion.

Everything has a place and everything in its place. Scrub is insuring cleanliness, which increases safety and improves productivity. Standardization of workbenches, manufacturing cells, or office desks helps create efficiencies. Sustain closes the loop by revisiting sort and going through the process again looking for refinement and more improvements. The implementation of 5S may be referred to as a finished ccomplishment, but if successful, the process will always be moving inside the continuous improvement loop. External pressures force organizations to seek flexible forms of manufacturing.

Mass production was successful for American industries for many decades. As the world began merging into a global economy, consumers began demanding product that catered to their individual desires. They wanted choices. Cellular manufacturing is a lean technique that transforms manufacturing operations from batch or mass production to several individual independent mini manufacturing operations within one facility. This production concept enables rganizations to be flexible and produce shorter runs of a wider variety of product lines.

Organizations using cell manufacturing experience improved productivity, better quality, lower costs, and greater flexibility (Fife, 1992). The goal of cellular manufacturing is to maximize human and capital resources while developing a skilled cross-trained worker. Cross-trained workers within a cell would have inventory, and continuous improvement (Hunter, 2003). Physical layout of a manufacturing cell incorporates enough machinery to begin and finish product without the need for the work in progress to leave the cell.

The starting point of the ell is usually located close to the source of materials such as receiving or the warehouse. The ending point of the cell is located so that the finished product is close to shipping or the warehouse (Hunter, 2003). Total quality or total quality management (TQM) is the management philosophy that focuses on total organizational involvement of continuous improvement of quality as a means to satisfy customers and create a competitive advantage over the competition Oohnson & Kleiner, 2013).

The goal of TQM is to set industry standards or benchmarking to achieve zero manufacturing defects through employee involvement at every level. The TQM school of thought is that a focus on total quality reduces waste, improves customer satisfaction, reduces the influence of pricing competition and moves the organization’s position within the market allowing for greater margins. The key element of a TQM system is the flow of information and the receptiveness to new and different information inputs.

Information, suggestions, recommendations and complaints move freely from the lowest stages of production to the highest levels of management, from upper management to the customer, from the customer to upper management, and from any stakeholder to any level in the organization without the oncern ofa negative reception Oohnson & Kleiner, 2013). Value stream mapping (VSM) refers to documenting the product or service from the point of inception to the finished delivery of the product or service to the customer and the actions and activities that contribute to the process.

The generally accepted point of inception is the placement of a customer order or a request for a service. As the product or service, moves actions and activities are required to meet the customer’s expectation of fulfillment of the service or product. These actions and activities are evaluated as o whether there exists opportunities to remove waste from any part of the process. VSM is very useful at gaining an insight into an organization’s inner workings. Organizations often use VSM as a tool to determine which lean technique or management process to pursue (Womack, 2006).

By mapping or documenting activities and actions that influence the product or service, organizations discover ways to simplify and streamline processes to effect cost reduction and turn around reduction. Simplification of processes leads to reduced potential for quality defects and competitive efficiencies Womack, 2006). The six-sigma philosophy states that by using statistical methods to chart processes you will be able to identify variances outside a given process window and work to eliminate those variances without alterations to the process (George, Rowlands, Price & Maxey, 2005).

Six-sigma uses the acronym “DMAIC” to describe five steps in the process. The five steps are: Define the problem or discover what the customer wants; Measure defects and process activities; Analyze information and find the root causes of the problem; Improve upon the process to eliminate the root causes of defects; and Control processes to make ure problems do not resurface (George, et al. , 2005). Six-sigma is attractive to organization due to the simple way this scientific method can be taught to the average worker.

Some criticize this technique for not transforming organizational that have lean manufacturing techniques in place need the support of lean maintenance to enhance not weaken the improvements made to manufacturing. A technique organizations turn to is total production maintenance (TPM). TPM is a natural extension of the lean philosophy of removing waste applied to production support activities. For organizations to maintain flexibility and the ability to produce small runs of diverse product lines, maintenance must minimize machine downtime, tooling changeover time and increase machine reliability.

TPM is a team approach between production and maintenance with the goals of continuous quality improvement, consistent machine reliability, efficient maximization of capacity, and safety (Maggard & Rhyne, 1992). Japanese refer to kaizen as a gradual systematic process of continuous change in a person personal life and work life. They apply the concept kaizen to the implementation of lean management techniques (Neese & Kong, 2007). The Japanese realized that implementing change to a culture demanded small well-planned steps as opposed to large bold events.

The successes the Japanese have accomplished in management processes have a direct correlation to the emphasis they put on addressing the culture of the organization. Kaizen is not a set of rules to structure the organization, but a philosophy of getting all within the organization willingly participate in a continual process of improvement Ooseph, 2008). Kaizen recognizes proper culture is required for any lean initiative’s sustainability. The idea that there is one best solution to a problem is replaced with he concept of many better ways of improving the situation and addressing the problem.

On the onset of problem identification, criteria is established to evaluate actions implemented to resolve the problem. If the results from the problem-solving action meet the preset criteria, that course of action is adopted and focus is directed to the next problem (Neese & Kong, 2007). Critiquing lean manufacturing literature Quarterman emphasizes the need to understand lean manufacturing, its elements and proper application of those elements as the starting point. Implementation of lean by most organizations is random and haphazard due to lack f understanding lean.

Lean is not an actual manufacturing philosophy but a way to address a specific issue. Evaluating the organization and its processes leads to identification of areas of waste. No individual or set of lean elements are universally applicable to every organization. Successful implementation of lean manufacturing involves more than checking off a laundry list of items. Successful implementation involves the cause and effect of problems observed within the organization. Quarterman states the importance of visualizing the future state of processes and infrastructure before setting priorities and plans.

The implementation of lean manufacturing is not the same for every company, but is as unique as each organization is unique (Quarterman, 2007). Michael LeGault describes waste as “any activity a customer would not pay for”. There is a myth that implementation of lean concepts is only for larger companies, not smaller organizations with small volume high mix production. Michael points out that lean manufacturing is a misstatement. Lean is as important in the organization’s office as it is on their manufacturing floor. Organizations are not focusing solely on the manufacturing process but the rganization as a whole as a lean objective.

Waste can be found everywhere within will scrape out all the waste from the office as well as the manufacturing floor. Some words of caution from LeGault are not to forget these programs’ limitations and do not lose sight of the program’s objectives. There will be obstacles that arise during the implementation of lean, but with strong committed leadership, an organization can be successful and reap the benefits lean has to offer (LeGault, 2005). Kocak?„IAl?„ Ch and his coauthors identify only five of the lean elements as major tools and the emaining elements as less used or popular lean concepts.

They feel value stream mapping will help managers identify the seven basic waste areas found in processes and is the basic tool to begin lean implementation. 5S, considered the foundation for future improvements, is the place most organizations begin their lean Journey. The authors believe that the use of the cultural tool, Kaizen, though not a lean concept, is an important influence in the shaping of organizational attitudes. Kaizen is not an independent lean manufacturing tool , but a tool to be used as a catalyst to Jump start other lean initiatives.

Kaizen mean change and kaizen events are events where there is the introduction of change. Lean manufacturing is all about streamlining an organization’s product or service’s value through the elimination of anything the customer perceives not to add value (Kocak?„1/41?„Ch, Brown, & Thomson, 2008). Drickhammer answers critics on their critique of Toyota’s quality issues with the recalls of millions of vehicles. Toyota birthed the lean manufacturing movement and people are now asking whether there are flaws in the philosophy or is lean manufacturing a long-lived fad?

Drickhamer answers simply that Toyota’s legacy is of eople, culture and the belief that one should always strive for improvement. Organizations lift Toyota up higher than is Justified. Toyota and its management never sought an elevated status for others enw and emulate, they were simply attempting to solve specific problems within their plant. There is a variance between being an expert at lean manufacturing and actually practicing lean techniques. Knowledge without action is impotent. Toyota found this out recently with an unprecedented amount of safety recalls.

They were the world’s respected leader and the birthplace for lean concepts, but Toyota relaxed and forgot to actively practice ean. Drickhamer cites three current lean successes, he believes lean manufacturing is far from over, still relevant, and still is effective when done properly. New lean tools have already emerged and more will follow (Drickhammer, 2010). McCullough cites a management-consulting firm’s survey of 100 CEOs that implemented lean concept over the past two years and the finds that almost 70 percent claimed their organizations did not achieve a minimum five percent reduction in costs.

The author points out that several companies that realized successful lean results found out those successes were not sustainable. Recipients of the Shingo Prize for successful lean implementation revealed that three years after receiving the prize, profits and growth were equal or lower than the performance from their competitors. The idea of lean manufacturing concepts is not everything projected to be or promised to deliver. Research shows that most organizations do not have the energy or desire needed to make lean initiatives sustainable.

The champions of lean are people who have a personal financial stake in promoting lean manufacturing in a positive light. The large potential for lean implementation failure exists due to negative influence that o implement lean manufacturing, alienate employees by failing to win the hearts of the workers. Treating lean concepts as a philosophy makes the management technique more a religion or belief system than a manufacturing method used to achieve specific results (McCullough, 2010). Lucey analyses the results from the Coleman Parkes Research surveys from the years 2002 and 2006.

He explains that barriers to successful lean implementation are the root cause for the lack of perceived benefits. Survey responses from 2002 to 2006 changed to indicate a benefit perception from cost cutting to improved efficiency and processes. Lucey claims high failure rates for organizations that do not thoroughly plan implementation and do not allocate proper resources to the lean initiative. The key obstacle to successful lean implementation is internal organizational attitudes. Employees and supervisors not embracing the lean philosophy prevent the cultural change needed for cultural change.

Cultural change is essential for foundational setting of lean values. Everyone in an organization needs to become a true believer in lean manufacturing. Lucey believes that large organizations have a greater potential for success than small companies (Lucey, 2008). Cappello describes lean manufacturing as a set of improvement fundamentals that have purposefully structured and sequenced steps that require methodical adherence to achieve success. Elimination of a step or changing the order of the steps results in the failure of the program.

Cappello believes that an organization must accept lean manufacturing as a whole concept and not selectively chosen parts of the whole to increase the organization’s potential for success. Not straying from predetermined lean goals and following the laundry list of lean implementation steps, will lead to successful organizational results. He warns that successes from lean manufacturing may take years due to the many parts of the program that need customization to fit the organizations unique needs (Cappello, 2007). Seddon tackles the controversy of the effectiveness of lean techniques in the service industry.

Standardization of work, reduction in activity time, and reduction of waste are fundamental to lean. These lean fundamentals have a strong attraction to service industry managers. Seddon is quick to point out that unlike manufacturing, activity does not always equal costs. Reducing activity time in he service industry may result in a lowering of customer satisfaction and actually increase costs. Service managers have been enticed by the promise of great cost savings through the implementation of lean techniques. The fallacy of this reasoning lies with a basic understanding lean.

Lean manufacturing does not focus on the financial benefits of the program. The focus is on problems identified within the system and relationships influencing and influenced by the problem. By having the correct focus, financial benefits will follow. Seddon does not believe that costs are in activities but in production flow. Lean concepts are not universal and are not applicable in the service industry (Seddon, 2011). The researchers Chauhan and Singh recognized the precursor to lean implementation is the identification of critical elements of the organization’s value process.

Those same elements form the parameters for evaluation of the success of lean programs. The authors include an organization’s authority structure and communication structure as part of the parameters by which lean companies are measured. Global competition necessitates activities. Lean manufacturing methods offer organizations the promise of cost utting through the removal of waste in and around processes. These costs savings promises have been fulfilled in companies willing to embrace and develop a lean manufacturing organizational environment.

It is important for success that organizations observe what they are doing with an unbiased view, define what goals the organization wishes to achieve, and determine to what extent lean will implemented in the organization. (Chauhan & Singh, 2012). Minter reminds us of the old saying that what gets measured gets done. Measurements influence behavior. Measurement of lean results creates accountability and allow for evaluation of the irection of lean initiatives. Measurements keep an organization focused on standards and goals determined in the beginning of the lean manufacturing implementation phase.

He emphasizes the underestimate of time involved for establishing sustained lasting lean cultures. Minter cautions companies from randomly choosing some lean tools, implement them and sit back to measure their success, which more times is failure. He stresses that choosing a few areas for improvement and measurement are often more productive and successful. Each organization must chose a standard for measurement that address their rganization’s particular makeup and concerns.

Minter emphasizes the need and benefits of having and implementing metrics to give weight to different measurement items for prioritizing of focuses and efforts. Inventory turns and sales dollars per employee are two commonly used measurement metrics (Minter, 2010). Bhasin stresses the need for organizations to adopt a more complete and comprehensive approach to performance measurement. Organizations progress through different stages in their life. Performance measurement focuses should change to match the organization’s current stage to prevent working against the strategic company plan.

Bhasin believes in the importance of a performance measurement system, the shortcomings of traditional metrics and the need to develop effective performance measurement systems that are relevant to an individual organization’s strategy. He claims that when we manage and improve processes associated with the customer, employee, supplier and organizational perspectives, financial performance measurements will improve (Bhasin, 2008). The authors Kaim and Arif-Uz-Zaman propose a basic leanness assessment metric that considers both efficiency and effectiveness traits and assimilates it with the lean implementation methodology.

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