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Lean Manufacturing (Part 2)

Posted October 27, 2008 7:00 AM by terrapin

Lean principles can be applied to other types of industry -, not just manufacturing. Health care, software programming, accounting services, education and even government agencies can benefit from implementing Lean principles.

Lean Healthcare

While returning from a recent Lean Workshop in Denver, I sat next to a nurse on the flight back home. We began talking, and she told me that she was returning from a conference in Chicago. When she mentioned that she had attended several nursing workshops there, I asked if any of the training had covered Lean Healthcare. She said that it had not, but asked what Lean was about.

I explained that Lean is about empowering employees and getting those who do the work to help improve the process. She thought that was a great idea! She also explained that management at the hospital where she works usually dictates what the process will be. Unfortunately, the nurses and other staff must then find workarounds to make the process work correctly based on reality.

The main premise of Lean thinking is to get the people doing the work to solve problems and make the process better. Often, in classic top-down management structures (such as those in the United States), this is not achieved. Managers and Senior Executives need to let go of their egos and empower the workers to make their own decisions. This is what Toyota and other Japanese manufacturers have been doing for years.

Implementing Lean is not as easy as it appears. Management and employees often resist change. A while ago, I was having lunch with some people who worked at a major food distribution company in the Midwest. They were discussing how they were implementing Lean within their warehouse and logistics operations. The plant was operating 3 shifts around the clock. Interestingly, thye found that the people on the late-night shift were the most open to change. This is probably because the day-hift employees have the longest tenure and are more resistant to change.

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#1

Re: Lean Manufacturing (Part 2)

10/27/2008 1:35 PM

You don't need Lean Manufacturing...you need lean management.
Fire all the middle tiers, then maybe the guys at the top will actually earn their fat salaries.
Del

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#2
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Re: Lean Manufacturing (Part 2)

10/27/2008 11:31 PM

HERE HERE !

BRAVO !

But wait without all the superfical upper management head game there would actually be a lot of extra money what with out paying those walkie talkies who just play golf with the boss or the yes man who just collects useless data that is never used.

What to do with all that extra money ?

The workers would not know that to do with it ? Maybe donate it to a political campaign that would limit thw workers rights .

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#3
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Re: Lean Manufacturing (Part 2)

10/28/2008 12:07 AM

Great idea Del. However in my place of employment I'd fire all the top level managers. They do nothing all day and are are real "cavemen" when it comes to solving any type of technical problem or issue. I would then give half of the money we saved to the real producers. This would push them on to bigger and better things. Now we would be getting somewhere - I don't exactly know where but we would be in a better place for sure. The other half I would use on improvements that would increase overall efficiency of the operation. The middle guys in my place do basically all the work only to have the top guys steal all the credit. I would create one lean mean production machine.

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#6
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Re: Lean Manufacturing (Part 2)

10/28/2008 10:18 AM

You don't need lean management either. Lean principles are suggestions, or alternate paths, you can take for completing a project or task.

Obviously not every situation can benefit from implementing lean ideas, but there are many situations in industry where it can. Determining when to use lean is a big part of it... it really depends on the project, and more importantly, the team.

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#9
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Re: Lean Manufacturing (Part 2)

10/30/2008 12:15 AM

We are in the throes of a major program in which we seem to have more project managers than people actually doing the work. Of course none of them talks with each other, so they spend vast amounts of time either duplicating effort or working at cross purposes. I suppose that is not surprising though since we have VPs who report to VPs who report to VPs.

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#4

Re: Lean Manufacturing (Part 2)

10/28/2008 12:32 AM

We already have a LEAN HEALTH CARE SYTEM.

Now they hand you a pill to take until you are really sick then rush you thru a process that might take care of 1/2 your medical problems. Then after that they blame you for your life choices and pre existing conditions so they can justify not providing the health care that you pay the Premiums for.

It took me 18 years to get both knees operated on at the local V.A.. They had to start another war and have the citizens outraged about the care at V.A. Hospitals for me to get that.

Now I am told I need a knee replacement for the left because they waited too long to do the left one ands it is worn out. Hopefully they won't have to take the leg off at the knee.

Took my mother to the emergency room last year with a 102 fever. They got it down in about 3 hours gave her a shot and 3 pills. Told her to take the pills when she got home. Got her home and she went to sleep. She slept almost 18 hours and broke the fever. She never took the pills. A few days later the bill showed up and the 3 pills were $128.00. 3 Ibuprofen for $128.00 I could buy 4 cases for that price!

Recently many doctors admitted they give their patients sugar pills for ailments. Now that is LEAN HEALTH CARE. Charging the people for a office visit and giving them sugar pills. Very Lean.

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#5

Re: Lean Manufacturing (Part 2)

10/28/2008 9:04 AM

Lean or green is nothing new and they can send you and all your staff to every school available, but it will not change a thing until all the work force is in one accord. This is unlikely, since most people are out for themselves and care very little about the industry any industry. The auto industry is an excellent example of the ability to introduce lean technology since 1903 by Henry Ford to be exact and his therory was considerably different the yours. His was: you can take any idiot and train him/her to do atleast one thing. This prooved to be true, but down the line the workers felt as if they we're worth more, thus, Our vehicles are now being made in mexico. In healthcare, which I am a CPE and very capable to introduce the so called navaltiy of green, but as management! you have to do it daily, because the basic down stream worker is dumb and they will always do whats easiest for them without careing about the result, so, it's not management, it's the people that do the work, do not confuse whom actually does the work.

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#7

Re: Lean Manufacturing (Part 2)

10/28/2008 11:16 AM

As terrapin stated, the whole idea of lean is to get the people doing the work to help improve it. I don't see why anyone would be against making their job easier or more efficient. In my experience everyone would jump at the chance to improve their processes.

As for the middle management/upper management debate... most of the time, middle management is more important to Lean thinking since upper management are usually too out of touch with the daily tasks that could use improvement.

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#8
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Re: Lean Manufacturing (Part 2)

10/28/2008 11:43 AM

I don't see why anyone would be against making their job easier or more efficient. In my experience everyone would jump at the chance to improve their processes.

Interesting.
In my experience most people are very reactionary, for fear of improving the job to the point where they are no longer necessary.
They are also wary of being held up for ridicule by their peers or middle management.
And are reluctant to give their ideas away without reward knowing that middle management will reap the benefit.

At my previous company I invested a good deal of time getting a large section of the workforce behind ideas like continuous improvement and empowering the workforce, only to have them alienated by an overzealous, manipulative, self serving HR manager who instigated disciplinary action on some guys who had used their initiative to benefit the company although technically they were bending the rules.
I left, after supporting them through their persecution.

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#10
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Re: Lean Manufacturing (Part 2)

01/11/2009 4:59 PM

Del, you are right on target. As usual, most plant managers and HR managers I've met seem to have a problem with comprehension. It seems they see "Lean" as "Lean-On" meaning yet another tool for extracting pain. The problem is that most managers are promoted just above their ability to do anything meaningful. And, they are usually treated with such "honor" that it goes straight to their head and destroys their ability to process logic. Consequently when they realize they usually have a limited amount of time to perform small (or even large) miracles without any real savvy, the panic sets in. Then every new program, including "Lean Manufacturing" becomes just another whip because the only thing these undeserving deadheads really know how to do is to crack the whip (by any name).

As you seem to know, real leadership in management usually disappears by the time the first generation of a business is passed on to the second generation. If this was not true, there would be a lot more successful start up companies instead of the 95% rate of failure that is the sad norm. Many of those second (and beyond) generation companies that survive are only able to do so because of the incredible start they enjoyed. Survival beyond the first generation is a function of the momentum set in place before the leadership is lost. On rare occasions, a true leader may be present in the second generation. But more often, some air head political butt kisser business graduate or accountant ends up in charge and rides the coat tails of his predecessor. Meanwhile, the slacker attitude perpetuates throughout the organization until creative juices no longer flow. I call it hardening of the attitudes.

The term "Lean" implies that there is a lot of "Fat" (or is it "Phat") to be cut while it was the same managers, who surrounded themselves with all of this extra cushion of unnecessary people (so they wouldn't have to do any work themselves), are the very cause of the problem in the first place. These empire builders are the real weak links. They are only there so they can enjoy their Julius Cesar sense of self importance. In many companies these guys are the department leaders. But somehow, they still bow down to the top management, when ever the "godly one" decides to stir about. I've been told all of this interaction and jockeying for position is called company politics. I call it balderdash.

When the company suffers big losses or it finally goes out of business, it never ceases to amaze me how the truly guilty parties in charge rarely have to pay for their mistakes or crimes. I find it amazing that many managers, just like some criminals, think they are the first guys to figure how to get something for nothing. I don't think they are stupid, just ignorant and occasionally paranoid. Now I understand why some companies employ washed up Lawyers as HR directors. Evil, after all, begets evil.

Lean Manufacturing? Why not call it getting back to basics, like the founder did?

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#11

Re: Lean Manufacturing (Part 2)

01/18/2009 1:17 PM

I will note that that the management style of companies tends to vary from the "vertical" (top-down decision making) to the "horizontal" (autonomous and across-the-ranks decision making). It is the latter where one is more likely to see a natural lean philosophy and the former where one is more likely to see a "formal" lean philosophy.

I am not saying that a horizontal management style is correct in every application at every time, as the vertical style is often favoured when a sudden change is required and its implementation must be quick.

"Lean" is really nothing more than a common-sense approach to business management. It can be as simple as providing just enough correct tools, materials, personnel, energy, and oversight to a factory process or as complex as doing the former plus redefining management roles and responsibilities.

I would think that the upper management of a company would be most embarrassed to find that they can make significant improvements through the implementation of the Lean concept. That tells me that all of the MBA's are really not the Masters of business administration they perceive themselves to be; they are merely textbook case example managers and not leaders! And perhaps that is the real difference-this type of manager does not have his finger on the pulse of the workflow.

I am still amazed, in a disappointing fashion, at many of the top level managers in many businesses who have not a clue about the core process of their business. They can attempt to impress you with charts and graphic models but often have little knowledge about the core process. And it seems to matter not that some have spent many years with that company. They do seem to be confined (maybe self-confined) into a job description and dare not step outside.

Lean definitely has a place-always has. I just shake my head when it appears as a "new" way of getting things done.

Best Regards,

Ing. Robert Forbus

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