5 Steps for Lean Manufacturing Implementation

Whether you are implementing lean manufacturing techniques for the first time, or you are beginning a new project and you need help with lean manufacturing implementation, it is important to get it right from the very beginning. In many instances, if you don’t get the first few steps done correctly, the rest of the implementation won’t be able to be properly completed either.

With this in mind, review the following five steps that should always come at the beginning of any lean implementation project. It will help you to get everything off on the right foot so that the rest of the process will go smoothly.

5 Steps to a Successful Lean Manufacturing Implementation

Step 1– Forming the Proper Team

Lean manufacturing teamThe first thing you do once it is decided that you will be implementing a lean strategy is to put together the right team to handle it. This team will typically require people who have the necessary business experience and job knowledge to get everything done smoothly. In addition, the team should include an experienced lean expert who can help keep the project on task.

Depending on the type of facility you’re working on and whether the implementation is for the entire facility or just one project, you can have anywhere from about 3-10 people on the core team. The key point is to make sure you have enough people to get it done properly, but not so many that it will actually cause more difficulties.

Step 2 – Develop a Communication and Feedback Strategy

One of the biggest problems people face when implementing lean manufacturing is everyone thinks they should be doing things their own way. Even with a good implementation team it can be difficult to get everyone on the same page.

This is why it is so important that the team has a set process for communicating with each other and providing feedback. When there are disagreements, having this type of process in place will help to avoid unnecessary friction and even negative emotions from getting in the way of the lean manufacturing implementation process.

Step 3 – Meeting with Impacted Employees

In almost all cases the lean process is going to be directed at one or more areas within the facility. When it is completed and rolled out, there will be many people who need to change the way they do their job. This can be a scary experience and if not done properly there can be a lot of negative pushback.

In order to minimize these types of problems, you should meet with the people who will be most impacted by any changes that come from this implementation and help to work through it properly. When meeting with them, you should make sure to have the following points in mind:

  • Gathering Ideas – You want to make sure you are getting as many good ideas as you can from the people who will actually be impacted the most.
  • Explaining Goals – While you may not have any specific goals in place at this point, you can explain that the overall goal of this project will be to help eliminate waste and streamline the process.
  • Provide them with Contact Information – Providing the employees with a contact person or group where they can go with future questions or suggestions is very important. It will not only give you access to improved information, but also help the employees to feel like they are more part of the team, which is very important.

Step 4 – Complete a Value Stream Mapping

Completing a value stream map is going to be critical in your lean manufacturing implementation. This map starts by identifying what features of a product your customers are willing to pay for. Identifying exactly what they need first will help make it possible to focus all the efforts on the things customers are actually interested in.

This will also be the starting point from which you can work to identify what types of activities and processes are currently being followed that should be eliminated as waste. Mapping out what customers value, and how to best implement it will allow the facility to develop the proper processes along the way.

Step 5 – Complete a 5S Analysis

The next thing you’ll want to do is complete a 5S analysis on any current processes to figure out where waste can be eliminated. The 5S’s are a great tool for figuring out where wasteful processes exist so that adjustments can be made during the lean implementation. This will help get the best possible results for the facility.

For those not familiar, the 5S’s are:

  • Sorting through bins for 5SSort – Sorting is essentially identifying what you need to do a particular job, and eliminating everything else from the area. Getting rid of the clutter and unnecessary items from an area will eliminate a lot of waste.
  • Set in Order – Getting everything in a particular area into its proper place. Make sure the facility is well organized. Even simple changes like using floor marking tape to identify where inventory should be kept will help to eliminate wasted space and time looking for items.
  • Shine – Keeping an area clean and clutter-free is very important. When things are kept clean and in good working condition, there will be fewer work interruptions due to preventable problems.
  • Standardize – Looking at existing processes and finding ways to standardize the work that is done can eliminate a lot of waste. For many lean manufacturing implementations, this is one of the biggest areas of focus because it deals directly with how the work is actually done.
  • Sustain – It is essential to remember that the lean manufacturing implementation is not a onetime event. It needs to be given ongoing attention or people will fall into bad habits again and any productivity improvements will be lost.

Getting Started Right

When you go through the above five steps, you will find that you have positioned the project well for success. These first five things that you can do will essentially make it possible to continue through the rest of the lean manufacturing implementation with a good roadmap that you are able to follow until the project is completely in place.




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