How to Sustain a Lean Culture in Manufacturing & Supply Chain

Today I will discuss how a company can sustain a lean culture once they have implemented lean practices in order to achieve continuous improvement. Your company has started the lean journey, but how do you sustain it? I use a method I call managing for daily improvement or MDI. Let’s first talk about first setting the stage, then give you practical practices and tactics to achieve a sustainable lean culture, and then provide core key performance indicators (KPIs) to track your progress. As a lean professional for many decades, let me be your guide to not only implementing lean, but truly creating an adoption of lean and a lean culture.

How can we Continuously Improve Daily and Sustain a Lean Culture and Behavior?

First and foremost, look to your people, the best resource you have. These people touch every part of daily operations through a process called managing by DAILY improvement (MDI). When a Lean culture is truly developed in a company, and old behavior, habits, and ways of working are modified, people become process improvement and problem solvers.These people/teams believe that there is always a better way to do anything.

The focus is to eliminate all wastes in the organization, improve processes, solve root cause problems, create a pull environment, and ensure that Lean Six Sigma (LSS) works for quality and daily problem solving using DMAIC (Define, Measure, Analyze, Improve, and Control) and PDCA (Plan, Do, Check, and Act).

Why are we doing this? The focus is to bring value to the customer, beyond the customers’ expectations. How do we monitor what our customers feel about us? What are our pros/cons? You use a Voice of the Customer (VoC) survey to obtain negatives and positives from your customers. You should also use the Voice of your Employees (VoE) to ask your teams what can be done to improve your operations: both your external and internal customers. Use Pareto’s 80/20 principle to prioritize both negative and positive feedback from your customers and employees and continuously improve daily based on this data.

Visual management and KPIs are a necessity in Managing for Daily Improvement for people on the shop floor. Don’t you feel individuals want to do well? Instead of the typical top-down approach, MDI fosters bottom-up, continuous, daily processing change. People then share experiences with each other in daily cross-functional Lean teams.

These teams and people meet daily in a “huddle” to discuss previous day goals and actual results. These teams can identify the root causes that created missing reaching their goals and determine a time frame for completion. Then, the team assigns responsibility for the action required to reach the desired solution. All activities are documented by a team recorder. MDI allows for those challenges that cannot be quickly resolved to be escalated. Leadership then commits to solve this problem. This increases employee morale.

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