Insight: Lean – Is it necessary for Continuous Improvement or a Situational Imperative?
Life plays funny tricks on us; 24 hours ago, I would never have used the phrase “Situational Imperative” and today I’m parroting its use from an article I just read (the link is below). The definition says that you select situations you know you’ll encounter and that you HAVE to respond to them in a predetermined way. I don’t agree with the ‘predetermined’ component of the definition because I come out of manufacturing and while some ‘incidents’ are recurring, some of the mysteries that materialize are first time happenings which don’t come with a standardized, formulaic solution.
Having been around manufacturing for more years than I’ll admit; the one recurring theme I have seen is the rush to Lean to repair an immediate, or imminent problem followed by the rush away from Lean. Manufacturers are quick to decry how concerned they are about this stuff and proportionally slow to actually do anything about it because while continuous improvement is a real need; they often service clients who want them to improve without change because change requires so much of that nasty paperwork!
In Minnesota they’d say, “Fer dumb”. Why? Because this flies in the face of a true commitment to Continuous Improvement. ISO 13485 implemented new challenges for device making; one of them was Design Control but ISO also said you’d better get serious about continuous improvement.
If you’re in manufacturing, you know good and well that problems are a constant. They come in the form of waste/scrap, poorly defined process, lack of commitment to the QS, and sometimes hapless operators who think they know better. Regardless of their source, their two biggest impacts are to your bottom line and the customer’s. Lean says if it doesn’t add value it shouldn’t be there. Be careful your customers can’t say the same about you.
My point is that I’ve learned, much to my dismay, we’re never too old to stop learning. Give this article a read. Use it or don’t, that’s up to you, but archive it as a learning tool and trust me … you’ll come back to it.
PS – The author lists 4 references and provides links to their sites. Be careful it could make your head explode but they are worth the visit too.