Expert Insight: Guest Contribution
  By Kevin Piotrowski, Director of Industry & Product Marketing  
  Jan. 30, 2009  

Supply Chain News: Achieving a Holistic Approach to Lean Manufacturing


Is it the Tools and Processes or People that Make Lean Work?



Piotrowski Says:
To some, the scope of Lean is confined to the production side of the business, but it can extend across and out- side the enterprise.

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The concept of Lean means different things to different people. To some, the scope of Lean is confined to the production side of the business, but it can extend across and outside the enterprise.

Given that many Lean concepts have originated from Japanese culture, where balance, harmony, discipline, and organization are central themes, it is not enough to only use the individual elements of the philosophy. It is the holistic combination of these elements and their relationship to one another that make them most effective.

A Common Question About What Makes Lean Work

A common question is whether it’s the tools and processes or the people that make Lean work. In reality, it is both. Applying Lean techniques within a traditional silo-oriented culture won’t work. Lean, at its core, is a people-oriented initiative — with needed cultural changes driven at the C-level. In addition, measuring performance must shift from monitoring individual departments to measuring performance across departmental boundaries and the end-to-end delivery of services and products.

Tangible Opportunities To Leverage Lean Methodologies

As you might expect, the manufacturing and production floor offers the most tangible opportunity to leverage Lean methodologies. But the same principles can be applied across every aspect of the business, from engineering and design, to finance, to customer service, and sales. Every business is impacted by activities outside their organization, from suppliers, contractors, or customers.

Market leaders recognize this fact and work to control and manage their total supply chain. Another important facet to a Lean initiative is the effective application of technology. The speed, volume, and complexity of business transactions dictates the use of technology to support communication and information exchange across departmental boundaries and supply networks.

Additionally, the application of Lean-centric technology can eliminate the redundant entry of information or reduce steps that traditionally required time and labor, such as issuing an automatic order acknowledgement.

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