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Lean Workers are Flexible Workers!

If you’re involved in, or associated with a Manufacturing process, you’ve probably read the articles, read the books, or attended the courses in Lean Manufacturing and you’ve probably implemented some of the concepts. Many of these resources only address the processes, their measurements, and techniques to perform continuous improvements to achieve a Lean Manufacturing environment.  Some provide detailed strategic and tactical plans describing how to view the equipment, it’s placement, the work cell, and the many aspect associated with each. However, a key aspect to Lean that is sometimes overlooked is the role of the employee and even more importantly, the changes required by management to enable and empower employees to create and sustain a Lean operation.

Stephen Jannise (ERP Market Manager, Software Advice) captures this key element in his comment:
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“This emphasis on a new way of thinking has proven to be a problem for many manufacturers. We often hear of experienced workers who cannot, or refuse to, modify their work habits to match a new lean environment and often choose to leave the company instead. Many longtime employees have settled into the rhythms of earlier traditions. The beauty of the assembly line was that workers didn’t need many skills. In fact, they only needed to do one thing really well before passing the product along and performing their skill again for the next product. But lean principles have changed the requirements. Workers who once stood in place and operated presses or drills must now be willing to move around and provide assistance wherever it is needed.”

This comment directly reflects the requirements I see evolving on a daily basis in my own work. If you can see your own workplace in this snippit of Stephen’s article, you will find Stephen’s full article a great reflection on the changes we need to instill in our management teams.

You can read the full article here: Trimming the Fat of Labor Management.

Additional Reference:

TheToyotaWay_cover.jpgIf you have not already read “The Toyota Way” and are looking for an excellent resource on the whole picture associated with Lean Manufacturing, I would highly recommend Jeffrey K. Liker’s book “The Toyota Way” (14 Management Principles from the World’s Greatest Manufacturer).  This was a very informative read, one that I will repeat several times over the next year.