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How To Launch Lean Manufacturing In a Medium-Size Facility

Lean Implementation Example 

Events & Tasks

Here is an approach for launching a Lean Implementation in medium-size factories of 100-300 people. Larger factories require a more elaborate launch with formal change management techniques such as Appreciative Inquiry, Future Search and World Cafe. Smaller launches might be simpler.

Our approach combines theory and practice with training, guided strategy planning and a Kaizen Event over 2-3 weeks. It enables the necessary individual and organizational paradigm shift. This launch:

  • Provides an initial experience of a lean environment

  • Introduces basic principles, themes and elements

  • Provides a theoretical framework

  • Prepares for initial strategy development.

The deliverables include:
  • An Appreciation for present problems and future possibilities

  • Consensus for Change

  • Knowledgeable & Committed Steering Committee

  • An operating Workcell, Line or area

  • Initial Lean Strategy Statement

  • One-Year Implementation Plan

Future Search

We employ a variation of "Future Search" for instigating "whole system change." The principles include:

  • A cross-section of people representing the entire system.

  • An learning environment where people experience the entire system in action.

  • A Focus on common ground and future action.

  • Enable participant responsibility for their own action plans.

Future Search fosters understanding, belief and commitment. It helps people to experience and accept polarities and to bridge barriers. It changes the way people interact.

The Steering Committee

The Steering Committee provides guidance and resources for the Lean initiative. It has 10-30 people representing all levels of the organization and all important functional groups. It includes people from Production, Scheduling, Human Resources, Maintenance, etc. as well as factory workers, middle management and executives. If the company has a union, it should be well-represented. The "whole system" is in the room and committed to the entire session.

Lean Launch Activities

Lean Implementation Launch Timeline



The activities and sequences on this Gantt chart are described below. This schedule is somewhat flexible and may occupy a period of 2-6 weeks.


Assessment/Present State

In this informal workshop, the Steering Committee examines the present state of their manufacturing system and benchmarks with respect to Lean principles. More Info>>

Lean Experience Workshop

This workshop and simulation introduces Lean Concepts. Participants operate a simulated factory and then redesign it with newly learned Lean Manufacturing principles. They operate their new factory to measure, see and experience the results. It provides the emotional and intellectual framework for understanding Lean. More Info>>

Advanced Training

This workshop expands on those lean elements that will be most applicable during the first year. It gives managers, engineers and others involved in system design adequate knowledge to apply the elements in their factory. The content is determined with the client and usually includes:

  • Value Stream Mapping

  • Statistical Process Control

  • Kanban

  • Setup Reduction

  • Suppliers & The Extended Value Stream

  • Teams & Team Development

Strategy & Implementation Plan

In the Strategy & Implementation sessions, the Steering Committee develops their Lean Manufacturing Strategy and an implementation plan for the next 12-24 months. This planning identifies future training requirements, the sequence of events and those lean elements most necessary for the product-process-market mix. The previous training gives participants the intellectual knowledge for this task and the Kaizen Event provides experience.

Lean Manufacturing Orientation

Employees not involved in the other training session participate in a half-day orientation course. In it, participants operate a simulated factory with Lego blocks. They redesign their factory in stages, measure the results and learn underlying principles. The program includes lecture, video and a lean simulation. The simulation is carefully designed in clear stages to show the effects of each element. A rigorous debriefing ensures that participants internalize the principles. More Info>>

Workcell Kaizen Event

In this 3-5 day Kaizen event, participants analyze an area or product line and design a workcell. They implement many or all of the improvements identified in the analysis. They then operate the line and demonstrate the benefits. A Strategos facilitator guides the event. The objectives of this Kaizen Event are to:

  • Demonstrate effects of Lean

  • Improve productivity, quality and inventory

  • Provide Kaizen experience

  • Build a consensus for change

  • Build a constituency for change

HAYES, ROBERT H. and WHEELWRIGHT, STEVEN C., Restoring Our Competitive Edge, John Wiley & Sons, New York, 1984.

RICHMOND, BARRY, The Thinking In Systems Thinking, Pegasus Communications, Waltham, Massachusetts, 2000.

HILL, TERRY, Manufacturing Strategy, Macmillan, London, 1985.

MONDEN, Y.,Toyota Production System, Engineering and Management Press, Atlanta, Georgia,1998.

LUBBEN, RICHARD T.,Just In Time Manufacturing, McGraw-Hill, New York,1988.

BOCKERSTETTE, J.A. and SHELL, RICHARD L., Time Based Manufacturing, Engineering and Management Press, Atlanta, Georgia, 1993.

SKINNER, WICKHAM, Manufacturing In The Corporate Strategy, John Wiley & Sons, New York, 1978

Next PageWRENNALL, WILLIAM, AND LEE, QUARTERMAN, Handbook of Commercial and Industrial Facilities Management, McGraw Hill, August, 1993.

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