Lean manufacturing is not a method that can simply be implemented overnight. But you will be on your way by implementing the 3 L’s of lean – Leadership, Learning and Listening. To make lean effective, the 3 L’s are essential for encouraging employees to embrace the lean system.
Usually, lean manufacturing is described as simply reducing waste, but a lot more goes into “becoming lean” then just eliminating waste and saving money. Lean is a system that transforms a company’s physical and social environment to encourage employees to actively identify and solve problems, eliminate non-value added activities (waste), improve efficiency, and delivery quality products on time and at the lowest cost. The best way to become lean is by understanding the 3 L’s of Lean and implementing them into the daily activities of the company.
The implementation of any new system starts with the leadership of the company. To become lean, employees have to ultimately change their attitude and work ethic. They have to be a “go-getter” and take it upon themselves to reduce waste and solve problems before anyone asks them to.
However, changes like this do not happen just because you instruct employees to be lean. Upper management needs to be the first to change their attitude and work ethic and show employees what actions need to be taken to become a lean manufacturer. If you work in upper management, you should ask yourself questions like “Do I work with front line employees to solve problems?” and “Am I a present figure on the shop floor and administrative offices?”
Employees need to learn and fully understand the lean system to implement it correctly. You cannot expect employees to understand lean without teaching them the proper lean tools and techniques that will help them solve the problems they will face.
Employee involvement is crucial to continuous improvement manufacturing. Training should be provided and employees should work hands-on in teams to reduce waste and solve problems. The best way that they can learn is by solving the problems themselves. They will be able to see how lean is relevant to their position and the work they do every day, motivating them to continue the lean method in the future.
A large focus of lean is on kaizen, the practice of small, continuous improvement. The best way to have continuous improvement is by listening to suggestions of the people doing the work because they are the industry experts.
One industry leader that has mastered the use of employee suggestion system is Toyota. Every year nearly a million suggestions are submitted by the employees and around 95% are approved to enhance the company. The frontline employees understand their work and would be the first to know how to improve it. Trust and mutual respect is needed for lean to work. If an employee knows their suggestion will be taken seriously and improve the company, they will be encouraged to voice their ideas again.
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