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Lean Manufacturing: Try Out A Lean Lifestyle

Adoption of Lean Manufacturing techniques remains an essential manufacturing management strategy.

Aw 3156 0903 Team
The core idea of Lean, derived from the Toyota Production System, is elimination of waste. Seven areas of classically identified waste are:

• Overproduction
• Inventory
• Motion
• Waiting
• Over-processing
• Transportation
• Not right the first time.

There is an “eighth waste” that Lean practitioners discuss without often identifying it as such—underutilization of people. In fact, respect for people is the foundation of Lean. Another waste that is extensively discussed in this issue of Automation World is energy. Inefficient power generating and distribution systems cost huge amounts of dollars of wasted energy, emissions and loss.

International business advisory firm BBK specializes in helping corporations develop solid operations plans that include implementing Lean Thinking. Keith Updike, managing director in the Nashville office, brings more than 25 years worth of experience to his practice. “We look at Lean from experience, as many in our firm have implemented both large and small Lean projects. When we look at Lean, we take a simplistic approach. It’s about waste elimination. It’s hard to argue that there is little or no applicability. It’s applicable at your house, in the finance department, healthcare, aerospace—in addition to manufacturing.”

The seven forms of waste from Toyota are still applicable today, according to Updike. “What is important is taking out waste in whatever you do. You need to use a value stream map to help identify and evaluate waste in your process. People often look into Lean when they wind up in a troubled situation. It’s kind of like you don’t worry about smoking since you were 16 until you have chest pains at 50. The bottom line is that something causes concern and you wake up and decide to improve. When a company adopts Lean, it is usually because the top decision maker in the company drives it.”

Lean Lifestyle

Lean isn’t a program or a project as much as it is a complete change of culture. It won’t happen just because one person, no matter whom, decides to be Lean. One person must be committed, but then that person must work to involve others in the crusade. It used to be said that sales is the transfer of enthusiasm from the sales person to the customer. Starting a Lean adoption is much the same thing. The evangelist must transfer enthusiasm for the change to everyone else.

When everyone becomes engaged, the company exhibits a “Lean Lifestyle.” Updike describes it, “When you walk into the facility, you notice everyone is engaged. They are making their individual work area better. There is a process in place, called kaizen, to drive improvements regardless of the department or function. You’ll see evidence that it’s taking place. People are always looking to improve, because you’ve never arrived. You’ll see emphasis on metrics and responsibility. There is a scorecard mentality, and you’ll see signs, posters and displays so that everyone can see how they are doing. Inventories will be noticeably low. Scrap material is nonexistent. Meeting customer requirements and deliveries are a part of life. Material flows in a one-piece manner. Everything is visual, where you can walk up to any process and the instructions are well known. Training is ongoing. In other words, picture a world where there is minimum waste and what waste there is, people are working to eliminate it. People are committed to the company and themselves, while the company is committed to the people.”

Summarizing all the threads of Lean, Updike concludes, “If focus, effort and commitment are there, you’ll make tomorrow better than today.”

Gary Mintchell,, is Editor in Chief of Automation World.
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