5 Simple Stages For Successful Lean Transformation In The Office

April 10, 2007
Yes, your office can be lean just like your factory!

Organizations that implement lean normally go through six stages of evolution.

Stage 1 -- Developing Manufacturing Cells

For manufacturers, the first stage is generally developing manufacturing cells in a specific part of their factory. Some first steps would be to benchmark, attend a conference on lean, find resource materials or find a lean consultant The consultant assist the company in performing the necessary Kaizens, follow up on all the items uncovered and train production workers to work to takt time and standard work.

Stage 2 -- Broaden Lean Activities

The next stage might be to broaden the lean activities in the factory from a specific place to a wider area. The company might replicate the first cell or perhaps upstream or down stream feeder cells to the one first created. More people must now get involved and the resources get a little more strained. With some planning the new cells get implemented, but it takes considerably longer than anticipated.

Stage 3 -- Gaining Experience

To hear more about this topic attend the IW Best Plants Conference, April 24-25, 2007 at the Indiana Convention Center & RCA Dome, Indianapolis, Indiana. The session Office Lean will be held on Wednesday, April 25, 2007 at 9:10 a.m. To register for the conference and view the entire list of speakers visit www.iwbestplants.com.
The third stage is gaining experience in the cells and realizing that the lean tools really work when applied with discipline. Takt time calculated properly leads to standard work and when coupled with cross training and appropriate quality, cost and delivery metrics, results begin go in the right direction. Correctly applying lean tools leads to very desirable results.

Stage 4 -- Involving The Entire Enterprise

The fourth stage is the realization that what was created in the factory cannot survive without the rest of the company getting involved in lean. Materials received in large quantities don't fit the point of use system designed for the cells. Orders that get to the factory floor late result in mad scrambles to fulfill orders, upsetting heijunka production smoothing. Replacement employees in both the office and factory, not yet trained in lean, seem bewildered by the lean activities. Supporting the factory from the standpoint of purchasing, order entry, human resources, and other office functions cause more and more problems as more disconnects surface.

Stage 5 -- Moving Lean To The Office

The fifth stage goes something like this. The company has learned how to lean the factory and now needs the office leaned to maintain momentum. The budding lean "experts" responsible for implementing lean in the factory are charged with replicating that success in the office. They apply their lean tools as they did in the factory, but the results are different for the office. Motivation for lean lags for both managers and employees. The basic lean tools like takt time and kanban are met with resistance. Office kaizen events don't seem to result in significant gains.

After this stage, the company's lean experts must determine why the office is responding differently than the factory.

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