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We Help Operations Managers to Conceive and Actualize Their Industrial Visions Based on the Lean Manufacturing Culture

What is LEAN and the LEAN movement

Lean is a way of thinking about the industrial organization that in recent decades has become a real ideological movement. In the last 50 years this way of thinking has transformed into a paradigm capable of revolutionizing the industrial world and which still continues to do so today.

Some industrial sectors have been completely rebuilt and adapted to this new way of thinking and this has happened because the inspirers of Lean have built companies that in a short period of time have achieved absolute world leadership in their industrial sector. They have become the benchmark by achieving world class manufacturing status.

These leading companies have caused all the other companies to rush to learn what Lean is and quickly make the necessary adjustments to avoid being thrown out of the market.

More and more managers around the world refer to this way of thinking when they have to build or reorganize a company so it can better serve the market of reference.

Lean in English means thin and other similar synonyms, which must however be seen from a positive and not a negative point of view; therefore when we refer to a Lean organization we refer to an organization structured in the most essential possible way; with no frills, redundancies or non-essential superstructures.

Becoming a lean company also means becoming a fast and agile company and it is this last characteristic, a consequence of being lean, that has allowed the success of Lean companies.

It is very difficult today to work in the industrial world if you do not have knowledge and skills about Lean and its methodologies and we foresee that tomorrow it will be impossible if you do not have them listed on your CV.

A brief history of the LEAN movement

The Lean movement has arised in the continuation of the historical search for concepts and methods useful to improve the industrial and economic performance of a company.

Many believe that Lean is some kind of methodology coming from Japan and that it cannot work in the western environment because our culture is not suitable for it.

Nothing could be more wrong, Lean is the result of different contributions made by personalities of different nationalities and as evidence of this we list the major contributors below:

Frederick Taylor: USA 1856-1915

He was the developer of the concept of "working standards". In his book: Principles of scientific management he states that: "managers must assume the burden of collecting all the company knowledge that in the past were possessed by workers and therefore of classifying, cataloging and reducing this knowledge to rules, laws and formulas which are immensely useful for the workers in carrying out their daily work "

Franck 1868-1924 & Lillian Gilbreth 1878-1972: USA

The spouses Gilbreth, for their study of work, focused in particular on the study of the movements made by operators during work.

In their book “Applied Motion Study” of 1917, they published the list of the 18 basic movements, divided between effective and ineffective movements, which will be exhibited for the first time.

Henry Ford: USA 1863-1947 

The founder of Ford Motor Corporation was the first to conceive and build an assembly line. His fortune was made on this concept as he was able to produce millions of cars with very high efficiency compared to competitors of the time who worked with the assembly island system. Perhaps it is also the first example of creating a value stream.

Kiichiro Toyoda: Giappone 1894-1952

Son of Toyota Industries founder Sakichi Toyoda. He continued his father's revolutionary ideas regarding the automation of looms for fabric production, applying them to the automotive world. In particular, he perfected the concept of Jidoka and Just in Time in the automotive sector, thus helping the realization between trials, progress and mistakes of what has now become the touchstone for Lean movement, that is, the Toyota Production System.

Edward Deming: USA 1900-1993 

He was one of the major contributors of his century for the improvement of company management techniques. Trained in the field of statistics, he designed statistical systems for process control. He is the creator of the SDCA-PDCA cycle through which the processes of continuous improvement are ordered and sequenced. His contribution to the development of the Japanese industrial system was so important that that country established the "Deming Prize".

Joseph Juran: ROMANIA-USA 1904-2008

His work was fundamental in the field of quality. It has developed 3 fundamental principles on quality management: 1) Quality Planning 2) Quality Control 3) Quality Improvement. It was also a revitalizer of the Pareto Principle, also called the 80/20 principle.

Taiichi Ohno: Giappone 1912-1990

Ohno together with Kiichiro Toyoda was the main inspirator of the Toyota Production System. He joined Toyota Motor Company in 1943 as chief head departement, and has climbed all the stages of his career having the direct experience of the operations until becoming executive vice president of Toyota in 1975. Through trials and mistakes he conceived the concept of Just In Time, Pull Flow, Kanban and Supermarket applied to industry.

Shigeo Shingo: Giappone 1909-1990 

Shingo was the developer of the SMED method; this method, through the reduction of changeover times, makes it possible to lower the warehouse levels and at the same time make available a wider range of products in a given period of time. Another fundamental concept is that of Zero Quality Control. Zero quality controls is a concept that at first glance might seem like a heresy but which if framed in the waste / value dichotomy acquires extraordinary importance.

The concepts, principles and methods developed by these personalities make up a large part of the body of knowledge of what we now call Lean and the Lean movement.

Who does not apply the LEAN, what they face?

Given what has been developed in terms of management methodologies by the LEAN movement in these 2 centuries of history, we can without exaggeration say that those who do not know and apply these concepts have practically no knowledge of how to manage a modern industrial process.

The fortunes of the company whose managers do not care or underestimate the benefits of applying LEAN are uncertain, because probably they are not based on the idea that there are precise processes that lead to high performance; probably this way of thinking relegate the companies to the size of a craftsman workshop or an artist.

LEAN is only for companies that want to move from craftsman status to industrial status.

This may perhaps also explain why it is difficult to find very few world-class groups in some countries.

LEAN Principles

In its 2 centuries of history, Lean has developed a series of principles that form the foundations of the success of modern industrial companies.

The principles are 4: Added value maximization, Flow creation, Distinction of means for the value added aggregation, People involvement.

Added value maximization

Starting from the dichotomy between value and waste that exists in all the necessary types of activities carried out in a company to produce the value that the customer is willing to buy, it is necessary to continually try to eliminate or reduce existing waste. This operation is accomplished by precisely identifying the waste using the following discernment grids in the different contexts that may arise before our eyes:

  • 3 waste families, Muda, Mura and Muri
  • 7 Muda
  • 16 losses

Once the waste has been identified, it must be eliminated or reduced through solutions that can be found in individual or collective problem solving processes.

Once the waste has been eliminated or reduced, it is recompacted through the reorganization of value-added activities.

Flow creation

The creation of the value that the customer is willing to purchase involves several successive transformations of the raw materials and the semi-finished products into the good that the customer is willing to pay; this applies also to those products that belong to the services area, in this case the raw materials and semi-finished products are substantially made up of informations and not tangible materials.

The succession of the required activities must be carried out following the principle of “flow creation”; this is realized by implementing as much as possible the attributes of a flow; it must be as much as possible: linear, short and without returns.

Distinction of means for the value added aggregation

The value that the customer is willing to purchase is aggregated depending on the industrial context. In some contexts and for some products the value aggregation is done by the hands or mind of the people, in other contexts it is aggregate utilizing automatic production lines and plants. There may also be contexts that require a mix of dexterity and automation to aggregate value.

When you are aware of the industrial context required for the aggregation of the value, you will be able to choose the most suitable methodologies for managing the processes and the ressources.

In particular, Just in Time methodologies will be used in those contexts in which value is aggregated with one's hands while TPM methodologies will be used in automation contexts.

People involvement

Man is currently the most important resource available for the value creation and the management and control of the related processes. The industry makes use of multiple complex processes, which require multiple skills and therefore the human resources involved must be coordinated in all the best possible ways in the processes of developing new ideas of improvements and decisions making.

Without the collaborators' involvement, the phase of waste elimination and value creation will not exist and the aim to achieve and surpass the company goals will not be actualized.

Results of applying LEAN

Companies that have faithfully adhered to the LEAN methodology have become leaders in their market segment but even those who have not been completely faithful to the teachings but have applied some of them sporadically have benefited enormously.

At the beginning of the movement, about 60 years ago, the companies that made the biggest leap of leadership in their sector belonged to the car industry but because this sector is also a consumer of products and services of other sectors, from chemistry to electronics passing through the rubber processing sector and up to services related to logistics and invoicing, we can say that today, there is no industrial sector without a company that has not joined the LEAN movement and that we can found in each industrial sector some champions for the application of the Lean methodologies.

Competitive advantages of LEAN companies

The competitive advantages that companies reach through the application of LEAN methods are the following:

High quality

Applying the following methods: Process control, Auto Quality, Standardization, TWI.

High efficiency

Through the continuous elimination or reduction of: Muda, Muri, Mura and 16 Leaks.

Warehouses at the right storage level

Through the application of: Just in Time, TPM, SMED

Delivery Speed

Through the application of: Lean logistics, JIT and TPM production systems

Successful products and services

Through the application of: QFD (Quality Function Deployment) and Lean Product & Process Design.

Best Work Environment and People Satisfaction in LEAN companies

Through the application of: Lean Management, Hoshin Kanri, Quality Circles, Kobetsu Kaizen and Autonomous Teams.