Flexible Approaches To Implementing Lean Manufacturing
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From the “land down under” the term “walkabout” refers to someone taking a long walk, exploring, taking a look around, etc. That’s the beginning of this approach to implementing Lean. A Lean expert carefully looks over the production facility along with a very knowledgeable in-house plant expert, noting where urgent attention is most needed. Improvement opportunities are prioritized to the company’s critical success factors and plans are laid to systematically address the improvements promising the greatest impact sequentially. Operators are observed and asked for regular input and occasionally some help, but are mostly left to their jobs. Using available personnel from focus areas and throughout the company, major improvements are accomplished in a very flexible and fluid process. This technique is most useful when staffing is tight, or production is unable to slowdown during the improvement process. A skilled facilitator can make this a “team process” by carefully listening to and incorporating input from area operators. Generally, however, this approach will not initially increase the “team buy-in” that other approaches foster. On a serious budget of time or staff this approach can deliver fast and powerful results with little disruption. Don’t let the quirky name for this approach fool you, when you turn an improvement expert lose in your plant exciting and important changes will not be far behind.
Using these streamlined approaches to becoming Lean very quickly and inexpensively will help companies become stronger and more profitable with unprecedented speed over more conventional implementation programs. To be very realistic, dramatic improvements are exiting, but creating a culture that embraces and sustains Lean Processes as well as implementing Lean throughout an entire company is a long-term endeavor. It should also be noted that becoming Lean is only part of the equation. Developing your staff with cross-training opportunities and validating their input on company issues, etc., will yield benefits such as innovation and loyalty for years to come. Furthermore, don’t forget to have fun with your transition to Lean Manufacturing. Sure, some of the obstacles will be formidable, but the improvement process is generally very exciting and rewarding for all involved.