How to Make Lean Manufacturing Successful and “Stick”: Thoughts for Top Management

by BillHanover on March 29, 2011

Hi, I’m Bill Hanover, Founder of TPS – ThroughPut Solutions.

So, here are the biggest questions we get from senior managers and leaders…How do I find the time to implement Lean Manufacturing with everything I already have on my plate and how do we fund the process?

We all know the benefits of Lean, like reduced inventory, streamlined processes, improved quality, reduced lead-times, continuous improvement, cost savings, increased profits, happier customers, increased market share and many more, but where do you find the time to make it all happen?

Not only does it seem impossible with so many other issues to deal with, but “Getting Lean” often comes with a great deal of pressure. Pressure from Corporate Leadership, boards of directors, and others, who are “Just trying to help.”

It seems the expectation is that you’ll do all you are currently doing + all your planned projects, and oh, by the way, let’s totally transform our company into a “Lean Mean Efficiency Machine” while we’re at it!

Biting off more than you can chew has become the norm in most companies these days, and anything we could call “Lean Manufacturing Bottom-line Results” are lackluster at best.

In fact, most senior executives we speak with scramble to justify the ROI on their Lean activities, or just tell us straight-up, that they have seen only meager gains, if any.

It’s not due to the lack of good intentions…it’s mostly a lack of strategic execution.

Many great leaders have shied away from getting Lean because they believe they can’t give it the time and resources needed to really make it work, or, they have tried to make Lean happen and it just didn’t “stick.” In fact, to some degree, getting great results is easy… keeping them is the hard part. Results have to be “Institutionalized” Lean must become part of the very fabric of the company.

At this point we have worked with a number of senior managers, presidents and business owners, who had previously tried and failed, repeatedly, to make Lean “stick.”

Again, these were all talented and eager leaders, they had the “Lean Vision” and knew they needed to pull it off somehow, but they just truly had too much on their plates to deal with already, and lacked a highly customized Lean Implementation strategy and a continuous improvement process and plan, that fit their specific needs.

My friend…that’s where the time is! Your customized and specific strategy. Your custom-fit strategy is also how you can have your Lean transformation be Self-Funding and automatically develop the internal talent you need for lasting “continuous improvement.”

Your customized strategy is how you eliminate the daily routine of constant “fire-fighting” such as expediting to this customer and handling another angry conference call with that customer. Its how you enable yourself to run your shop “from 30K feet” like “other people” are always talking about.

Your Lean strategy “kills dead” the wasteful and time-consuming tasks we all hate and replaces them with streamlined processes that “make sense” and free-up your time to develop your vision for your company…the vision that inspired you to start the company in the first place, or perhaps inspired senior leadership to trust you and take a chance on you leading the company.

Bottom-line… The difference between a successful Lean implementation and another failed attempt is in the way you approach the shot. It’s not a “one size fits all” kind of deal; Lean must be approached with your specific issues in mind.

Most of the senior managers and leaders reading this commentary have sent people to any number of trainings and seminars on Lean, they’ve read the books on Lean, and have probably hired a “Director of Lean Manufacturing” or “Continuous Improvement Manager” or perhaps even consultants to help make Lean happen.

But, even with all of this help…it didn’t happen, or happen fast enough, or it’s starting to look like Lean is a bit of a “pipe dream” that works in some companies…but for some reason, it just can’t work like it should here.

Sure, we do some basic training, but we pride ourselves on being facilitators, implementers, and value-adding partners and collaborators in the process…We are not professors who show up and leave after presenting some class on the latest Lean buzzwords.

I’ve been helping companies implement, sustain, and improve their Lean processes for more than 16 years. My two partners have a few more miles on them with more than 23 years of successful Lean transformations each.

We’ve been down this road before and we know what it takes to help you, with your very specific issues and challenges, to implement and sustain Lean Manufacturing without piling more on an already “full plate.”

In fact, we will find ways to free-up time, money and resources as we address wastes at every level through a highly strategic and customized process.

Your specific needs, must set the pace and focus. What you want from Lean and how you define success are key drivers in the entire process. Let’s do what matters most!

Having worked with more than 100 companies, in dozens of industries, and multiple countries, we’ve learned that the principles of Lean don’t change; but how you apply them for the greatest impact certainly does. This expertise has been earned in the trenches, and we have never understood more, or been of greater value to our clients than we are right now. I suspect that is where you find yourself as well.

Of course we guarantee our services and always see ROI’s many times the investment. Frankly, our guarantee almost doesn’t matter anymore, we’ve never failed, and we don’t plan to start.

Your risk isn’t so much “the cost of our help;” we make the whole process Self-funding anyway… your risk is, Can we do it or not? Can these guys really take us where we need to go…once and for all? Can we trust these guys with our business, our livelihoods, our fears and failings? Will these men be of good character and honor, will they fit in, inspire us, and will they do all in their power to help us when sometimes it seems an impossible journey? And finally, will they leave us with a Lean Process we truly “own” and understand?

Answering these questions starts with a simple phone call. If we choose to work together it will be a partnership of trust and collaboration probably unlike anything you have ever experienced. None of us can afford to quit…let’s talk and see how far we can take your company. If you’re ready to start, or restart, the Lean process, so are we. I hope you’ll call.


Bill Hanover
CCO, TPS – ThroughPut Solutions
(435) 792-4380

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