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 Lean Manufacturing 

Implementing Change
Part 1 of
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Perhaps in no other type of business has the resistance to change been so intense as manufacturing. Was this reluc­tance to change due to high capital investment or because the inventor/entrepreneur retained a pride of ownership? Perhaps for the owner the profits were acceptable and he was content. There could be a variety of reasons, but nevertheless, conventional thinking stymied manufacturing's ability or willingness to change. In my opinion, this is one of the major reasons U. S. industry fell behind.

Other aspects of conventional thinking were concerned with the concept that workers were followers, we had to have long lead times or build large inventories (we couldn't have both short lead times and lower inventories), suppli­ers were adversaries, complexity was natural, inventory was an asset, maintenance occurred only when needed, setups/lot sizes were expected, etc.

It became obvious, therefore, that as technology increased, the people involvement aspect became even more neces­sary. World Class Manufacturing almost dictated that self-directed work teams emerge, communications improve, and the quality of work life increase. This all sounds reasonable, but many companies are struggling to achieve even a small portion of these goals. Once again, why can't these goals be achieved?

Because management has not kept abreast of these new techniques and furthermore, in many cases, don't even understand the concepts and appli­cations. Also, change is one of the most difficult human experiences. If I had a quarter for every time a top manager has told me that "my people need to be educated, but I know all these things," I would be a very wealthy man. Usually, the individuals being educated understand the concepts and the reasons to change. It is top management who are the first to violate the rules.
According to Robert Hall in his book regarding excellence in manufacturing, the three key interfaces are customer oriented quality, continuous manufacturing improvement, and people involvement. The important aspect of this concept is that we must keep all these in balance. In other words, if a continuous improvement program means that the employee could lose his or her job, then a reluctance to improve or make suggestions will prevail.
What Do Cl, EW, and VA Have in Common?

Continuous improvement, elimination of waste, and value added functions all follow the same basic philosophy. This philosophy simply means that in order for a business organization to remain viable, it must continually seek new markets, obtain the most economical technology in its industry, have inspired employees, and renew itself con­stantly.

Within manufacturing, this can consist of reorganizing the workplace, reducing lead times, reducing space, being sure that designs are manufacturable, and utilizing preventive maintenance. In fact, as most of us are aware, by placing our design and manufacturing engineers physically to­gether, we should be able to reduce development time by as much as 70% and reduce the number of engineering changes by as much as 90%. These are very significant improve­ments and certainly add value to the products. Another concept that we use is that of simultaneous engineering. This means a greater use of cross-functional teams with the result being more concurrent design of both product and process. This not only helps to improve communications by tearing down depart-mental walls, but also reduces prod­uct lead times significantly.

Continuous improvement should be and always has been the main goal of management. The basic difference today is that we now ask all employees to contribute to this goal. We must listen to our employees' suggestions and take action. Regarding elimination of waste and value added, a direct correlation exists. The correlation is that value added functions equal elimination of waste.

To be Continued


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