Lean is the term used to describe the production system developed by the Toyota company in the post World War II years. “Lean” comes from the ability to achieve more with less resource, by the continuous elimination of waste. Lean manufacturing principles/ tools include 5’S, JIT (just in time), Kaizen, Kanban, and Value Stream Mapping.
For many manufacturers, driving lean techniques throughout the organisation is a challenging task that may or may not pay off but it doesn’t have to be that hard. Manufacturers can succeed with lean if management gets its strategy and objectives in place and stick by them. Companies start lean initiatives only to abandon them once another strategy comes on the scene. Public companies face pressure for short-term cost reductions. Staying lean requires more staying power than most companies can handle. Few companies attempt lean, and those that do struggle to make any significant improvement.
A variety of factors are holding back lean’s progress in manufacturing within organisations including;
1. Lack of top-management commitment – Aligning practices around lean thinking requires massive cultural change. It must be led and driven from the top of the corporation.
2. A short-term focus on cost reduction – Responding to profit imperatives, many companies are concentrating only on reducing costs rather than looking to lean as a source of greater efficiencies.
3. Emphasis on imagery rather than real work – Management is too focused on the trappings of a lean initiative, such as slogans, launch parties and classes, rather than figuring out how to improve actual processes.
4. Reluctance to empower workers – With its focus on factory floor processes, lean elevates the role of the workers who live inside production. No one knows more about what is broken and how it can be fixed than the people who oversee the work on a daily basis.
Most companies will be unable to meet the challenges of undertaking lean but that is no reason not to begin, as lean can generate sustainable profit. Lean is hard work, but the benefits can be considerably positive and Lean manufacturing not only reduces operational costs but also targets to boost, restore and significantly raise the competitiveness of a company.
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