Pull processing, perfect first-time quality, waste minimization, continuous improvement, flexibility, building and maintaining long-term relationships with suppliers, automation, load leveling, production flow and visual control are all components of Lean. Although these concepts are logical and somewhat intuitive in nature, a comprehensive understanding of Lean is necessary to avoid common mistakes made during Lean implementations. Some of the common pitfalls are:
- Trying to implement Lean with a weak or incomplete strategy or with insufficient resources to gain significant traction. Training, target setting, and communication tools all need to be carefully planned for proper implementation of Lean. Lean embraces change, and resources are necessary to drive the process improvements. These improvements generate incentive to implement other ideas which fuels the continuous improvement engine.
- Implementing Lean concepts beyond the Lean maturity level of the organization. This is a common mistake made by Lean implementers that have good theoretical knowledge, but lack practical experience. Jumping too quickly to an across-the-board JIT operation before completing a comprehensive assessment of the supply chain is a common error of this type.
- Having a deep understanding of your business. Lean doesn’t offer cookie cutter solutions. The concepts need to be customized to fit your business. What works perfectly well in China, may fail miserably in Japan, how an automobile parts distribution warehouse implements Lean to control inventory, is going to be different than how a beverage warehouse manages inventory. Each Lean solution must match with the company size, industry, ethnic cultures, product price structure, location, environment and a number of other related variables.