Wednesday, October 1, 2008

What Does it take to start LEAN?

The first thing that is needed to get your LEAN program started is a desire for your company to improve and do better.

That's Easy, right?

Should be a no-brainer.

The struggle that most people have with this simple thing is Management Buy In. 

Don't get me wrong they will all profess to wanting to improve and I sincerely believe that they all want to. They like to be praised with finding the solution that makes their plant better and more profitable. The part they don't always buy into is the methodology behind LEAN. They don't always see the importance of their participation in the principles. This becomes a big problem down the road when you need their support and they are sitting on the fence or don't step up. And the people on the manufacturing floor can see right through them and then your efforts either FAIL or you take a major step back and have to make up that ground you lost over the next few years.

When our Engineer (Sensei) was hired he realized that this would be his first major obstacle in converting our plant to a LEAN culture. He knew if he could get our managers and facilitators on board that everyone else would fall in line. So he spent a good 6 months drilling LEAN into them and re-drilling them again and again until he felt comfortable taking the principles to our manufacturing floor.

So the 3 major things that you need in order to get started in LEAN is:

1. Desire for change and improvement.

2. A Sensei. This is someone that has a very keen knowledge of LEAN and is someone that can answer the questions that arise in your journey of LEAN.

3. Management Buy-In.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

What is a LEANgineer?

LEANgineer is the description that I give to the job that I do everyday. This is a self proclaimed Title, as I have never heard of it other then when I use it to describe what I do.

A LEANgineer is a cross between a LEAN Advisor or Teacher and a Manufacturing Engineer.

In my daily job duties I have to be both. I am responsible for specific work cells in our plant. We have a robust idea program in which our employees are encouraged to submit their ideas to improve their machine, cell, or even the plant in some cases. With a constant stream of ideas coming in I am responsible to provide research, coordinate the design process, as well as the implementation process, and do the follow up to make sure that we really have made an improvement instead of what we assumed would be an improvement.

I take care of the LEAN and process training that goes on in my areas. This can get very tricky in the scheduling process as we don't want to interupt production for too long. Training is key to the understanding of why we are doing what we are doing and why we are heading in a specific direction. But production is our bread and butter, so if it isn't happening the company isn't making money and no company can last very long doing that.

I, myself must keep up with my own training and learning in the areas of LEAN. If I don't continually learn and better myself how can I teach others and keep improving their understanding of the principles?

I guess you could say that a LEANgineer is the backbone of LEAN Manufacturing in the company. This is the person that gets it done, the one that is propelling the company toward World Class Manufacturing. This position may be called many different names but it all comes down to every company that wants to be great needs this person to make it happen.

Monday, September 8, 2008

A Little Background

Just to give you a little background into my experience with Lean Manufacturing....

I work for a Large Privately owned Commodities company. For now I would like to keep which company a mystery, but I may feel the need to share the company name later on in future posts.

We have been adapting LEAN Principles to our manufacturing processes since 1999. 

Our Journey began with the hiring of a new Manufacturing engineer who brought with him many new ideas and ideals that would forever change how we did daily business in our branch of the corporation. These principles would soon start to influence our head quarters and eventually the other branches of our company. 

No matter what company you work for or what your company does LEAN manufacturing IS the pathway to the Goal of every company..... to make money. It opens doors to making your products at a lower cost while increasing your profit at the same time. Lets face it, we live in an ever changing world and if we don't change, if we don't modify our manufacturing practices we will not be able to keep our jobs here in the USA because it will be too expensive to produce our finished goods. 

We must LIVE LEAN Principles in order to survive todays market and to compete with foreign Conglomerates. We had the answers First but were to stupid to see what we had so those who had the original vision taught it to the Japanese, who now are re-teaching us. They have become the masters and we must be humble enough to learn from them.

As I post in the future I will try to relate many of the experiences that I have personally lived/worked through to get to the point we are now. 

Don't get me wrong we are in no way world class...... yet. 

But that is what we are all striving for, right?