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Developing Your Lean Strategy

A General Procedure 

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Six General Steps to Lean Strategy

To develop a Lean Manufacturing Strategy and implementation plan, we recommend six general steps:

  1. EvaluateThe Current State
  2. Identify "Key Manufacturing Task(s)."
  3. Determine The Future-State Workflow (In Principle)
  4. Select The Lean Elements & Infrastructure
  5. Identify Precedents and Priorities
  6. Develop The Plans

1. Evaluate The Current State

Our Lean Manufacturing Assessment is a good tool for this. It examines nine key areas and points the way to appropriate improvement techniques. Process Mapping and Value Stream Mapping are also valuable.

2. Key Manufacturing Task

The Key Manufacturing Task is the task that is most important for competition in the market. It provides the focus in Focused Factories. A factory should have only one or two such Key Manufacturing Tasks according to Wickham Skinner.

Identifying the Key Manufacturing Task starts with what Terry Hill terms "Order Winning Criteria" or "Market Criteria." Market Criteria are the factors that customers use to decide among competing sellers. We should, in effect, ask the customers why they bought a particular product. Their responses lead to the task that must be accomplished to win new orders.

3. Future State Workflow

Workflow emanates from process and layout. What equipment does the work and where it is. For many (but not all) manufacturers, workflow is the best place to start. It corresponds to von Clausewitz' "center of gravity." With a streamlined workflow, many other things become easier.

In the beginning, you will not know the final layout and arrangement of the factory. However, you should be able to:

  • Determine where cellular manufacturing will apply and where it may not.
  • Identify probable Focused Factories.
  • Identify "monuments"; equipment that is large, expensive and operates on many different products. These are likely to remain in functional areas.
  • Identify where a few new machines might untangle a complex workflow.
  • Evaluate equipment utilization policies that may encourage complex workflows.

For shops with hundreds or thousands of parts, this requires experience in Group Technology. Without such a background, visualization of the future state is difficult.

The paradox is that the larger the number of parts, the more likely it is that workcells will be viable. It does take work to untangle the mess and identify cells. It often requires sophisticated methods. Our series on Group Technology explains.

4. Identify Your Lean Elements

Based on the vision of the future state, pick the appropriate elements of Lean Manufacturing from the Lean Laundry List. You may also identify other advanced manufacturing techniques that are not on the usual lists of Lean Manufacturing.

Lean Laundry List

Future State Infrastructure

Infrastructure supports or enables the process. Infrastructure includes:

  • Scheduling
  • Training
  • Culture
  • Organization Structure
  • Quality Methods
  • Utility Systems
  • Costing Systems
  • Investment policies
  • ...Many Others

Here, again, experience is important. Not because the problem is so difficult but because the paradigm is so different.

5. Identify Precedents and Priorities

Precedence may require the use of certain elements to make some other element practical. For example, Rapid Setup (SMED) may be necessary to enable kanban. In addition, workcells make kanban simpler and easier. Workcells also function better with small lots. The precedence might therefore be Workcells, SMED, kanban. In reality, these are likely to be concurrent as much as sequential.

Priorities depend partly on precedence but they also depend on ROI. By giving priority to elements, products and areas that promise the fastest and largest returns, the transformation becomes self-financing.

Prioritizing Example

Prioritizing lean implementation Some companies start with 5S. They want to clean the place up. This seems like a good thing and Martha Stewart would surely approve. However, Cellular Manufacturing might be a better starting point for the following reasons:

Another factor for priorities is the "Low Hanging Fruit" principle. For various reasons, it may be very quick and easy to implement one or another element. It makes sense to give such elements higher priority.

6. Develop The Plans

With a broad overview of the situation, a vision for the future and knowledge of precedents and priorities, we can now plan our action.


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Value Stream & Process Mapping

The Strategos Guide To Value Stream and Process Mapping goes  beyond symbols and arrows. In over 163 pages it tells the reader how to do it and what to do with it.

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