Expert Manufacturing Advice tailored for step-by-step implementation in the workplace. Small Manufacturers, Machine Shops and CAD Engineers improve and thrive with our hands-on help. Making it Happen: Lean Manufacturing Action Plan 1

Making it Happen:
Lean Manufacturing Action Plan 1

Lean Manufacturing Action Plan

OK, so what do we know about Lean Manufacturing? We've heard about the tools and techniques. We've looked at the cultural and leadership considerations required. We’ve also reviewed beneficial aspects like automation. So how can we bring it all together in a neat summary, designed for implementation and delivering great results? Well the list below lays out an action plan to make it happen. Refer back to the relevant sections and feel free to further research the parts most relevant for you. But importantly…. Do Something! Don’t procrastinate, instead get up and and start planning. Get others involved and get started. Now is the time to make it happen…

Key stages include:

  1. Be clear about your objectives. Gain commitment from senior management with a clear vision and plan
  2. Clearly align the plan to business objectives
  3. Get somebody with energy to drive things forward
  4. Assess where you currently are
  5. Inform the team and train thoroughly
  6. Apply Lean Manufacturing tools and techniques
  7. Rollout and implementation
  8. Encourage the right culture
  9. The importance of communication
  10. Supplier and customer involvement
  11. Successfully answering the ‘Buy v Make’ question
  12. Automation: Big benefits through modernisation  
  13. Kaizen – continuous improvement

These stages are expanded and explained below:


Work up a plan, including a vision, to gain commitment from senior management and obtain buy-in from employees.

What are your objectives? What are you aiming to achieve? Have a clear idea – a vision that can be articulated. Concentrate on benefits for the organisation and for individuals. Quantify where possible, in money, lead-time, quality etc. The benefits of lean manufacturing are numerous. They include dramatic cost reduction, improved cash flow, slashed lead-times, as well as a significant improvement in quality with fewer defects. Advantages also consist of improved customer service and satisfaction, a boost to employee morale and ultimately greater profitability through savings of all kinds. Quantify as best as you can and match these to specifics in your business.


Clear alignment to business objectives

Acceptance from senior managers will hinge on how well aligned the lean manufacturing plan is to the wider business strategy. For small manufacturing businesses, there are a number of obvious areas a lean manufacturing plan should naturally correspond to. Examples include cost reduction, quality improvement, as well as greater professionalism and the adoption of industry-standard techniques. More broadly, consider better staff morale, improved cash-flow and greater profitability. If you can demonstrate how the plan starts working towards these, you are onto a winner.


Get somebody with energy to drive things forward

Ideally you need a charismatic individual to drive the lean manufacturing plan forward, and ultimately lead implementation. Have you got any likely champions internally? Is it something somebody would consider as an opportunity to develop themselves if you asked for volunteers? Do you need to seek a professional pioneer externally? Consider the points in the ‘Lean Leadership’ section. Leading by example, visibility, supporting and coaching are critical. In addition, enthusiasm, inspiration, effective communication, facilitating and problem solving are great qualities central to the role. The ability to persuade and convince others is also crucial.


Assess where you currently are

Do you know how lean your manufacturing processes are? As a baseline, it’s important to establish where you are, before deciding what you need to do. Why not ask questions or conduct an internal survey? How aware are your employees of lean manufacturing, the principles, the techniques and the application? Has anything been tried in the past? Does knowledge vary between employees and between teams? By systematically asking a range of questions you should start building up a picture. Are you at the start of the lean journey or are you more in the middle, requiring refresher training and a more coordinated approach? Also, commercial assessments and benchmarking are available.


Form the team and train thoroughly

Lean manufacturing will require a team of individuals, led by your champion. Seeking volunteers is ideal – you want employees to do this who possess natural enthusiasm. A good idea is to obtain individuals from different teams, and ideally different functions. Getting staff involved may require reminding them how they can personally benefit. Examples include greater employability, transferable and marketable skills, more interesting work, opportunities for development and training, as well as the chance to enhance competitiveness.

Employees should find out all they can about lean. Start with self study. It’s cheap and convenient. Use this guide, the web and books. Get the basics understood and the knowledge absorbed, so you comprehend the principles and have a good grounding. Small manufacturers should consider low cost options like this at first. Use the web extensively to review case studies for comparable sized businesses to yours. See text, images and embedded videos. Later you may want to move onto more formal training courses.


Lean Manufacturing Tools and Techniques

Ensure the team fully understand the core lean principles, followed by a detailed appreciation of the application of the lean manufacturing tools and techniques. The 7 wastes is a must, as is the ability to learn to spot them all and suggest improvements in your place of work. Other essentials for team members include 5S, Value Stream Mapping, TPM, Kaizen, 5 Why’s and PDCA. Other tools include reducing inventory, lean visibility, factory layout and standard operating procedures. In addition to learning the theory, all team members should constantly be considering how these ideas can be applied in their workplace, within their teams and to their manufacturing processes.


Rollout and implementation

It’s time to start rolling out the plan. A good idea is to begin with a pilot in a particular area or team. The lean leader should consider a technique that is highly interactive and gets employees involved. The 5S’s or Kaizen blitz are ideal tools. During rollout consider the Deming cycle of Plan, Do, Check, Act (PDCA). The pilot should be undertaken at pace. Pick a project where you can make visual impact quickly. Rapid progress will help inspire staff and gain commitment from all including managers. Focus on making changes that provide tangible improvements for the business and for individuals.

Give people ownership of initiatives, with the responsibility to make things happen. Frequently refer to theory and your training, yet in a practical applicable way employees can relate to. Use examples and case studies where possible to illustrate implementation in comparable business environments. This will help ideas stick in the minds of those being trained, as well as further convincing them. Constantly aim to cut waste – in all 7 of it’s forms. As practices bed-in, bring in complimentary techniques such as TPM to bring the broader benefits of lean manufacturing to more areas of the business.

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