Increase the gap between you and the competition using Lean routines
There’s more to do! At the end of the day, it’s not Lean tools which make the difference. It’s the development of Lean routines which can help to bring forward creative solutions to tomorrow’s optimisation problems.
In many cases, Lean management is introduced in a tool-oriented way. Tools like standardisation, pull and heijunka, among others, can help you achieve good results in the first phase. However, to go significantly further than your competitors requires developing real competence in improving as a company. It’s about building your own “Lean routines”, optimisation processes which are systematically learnt and applied across the board. These routines build on tried and tested principles – four of which we would like to introduce to you.
Are you familiar with the following situation? A Lean project is begun with high expectations. After a few weeks, however, it becomes clear that there have not been many tangible achievements. When this is queried, the project management explains that the team is too small for the task which has been set. Furthermore, meetings keep being pushed back. The project, which once started with enthusiasm, is being put back and is dragging on.
'Once we had managed to implement all the projects quickly, one after another, the number of optimisations, which we completed successfully, went up. That motivates everyone!
Short durations are a sign of optimal processes. This also applies to Lean projects. To their advantage, they are organised as “short and fat”, i.e. equipped with all the necessary resources to achieve a result in a short time. How can one ensure “short and fat” systematically as a routine?
Optimisations, which are carried out quickly with full awareness and high energy levels, are not just more efficient (less mental “retooling” time, less loss of expertise etc.). They are often more effective, too, because they display the change momentum that is important to real change.
“Flow efficiency” is achievable when value that is relevant from the customer’s perspective is created without surplus, end-to-end. But is this central aim always pursued consistently in Lean projects?
Customer orientation and flow have become so self-explanatory as requirements that they are now treated superficially. For example, end-to-end optimisations are often broken down into subprojects due to feasibility considerations, which are then carried out in individual organisational units. This means that the silo-oriented attitude often has a strong impact on the end result.
Naturally for us, the customer is at the centre. That is, up until he’s pushed to one side by individual departments’ efficiency targets. Here, we consistently offer an alternative.
The result is optimisations which primarily improve the efficiency of internal resource use (employees, production equipment, infrastructure), but do not improve the efficiency of the value stream from a customer perspective. Flow efficiency is therefore no lone wolf, even in Lean projects. It must be consciously incorporated. The following routines can assist with this:
In Lean projects, there is often a requirement that the target definition should be used to find an optimal solution with maximum impact and to set this down. Whether the defined solution works only becomes clear once it’s en route to implementation. In Lean methodology, therefore, a particular definition of “target definition” has been developed. “Stretch target conditions” (STC) initially describe the logic according to which a process should function in future, how it’s organised, what the expected performance is, and when the target situation should be achieved.
The most important question for my staff is: What is currently the main issue that stops you from meeting our agreed standards?
The actual value of the STC only becomes clear, however, in the implementation. Here, the STC serves as a reference point for permanent checks and plan/As-Is comparisons: Does our process function in line with STC? If not, what is stopping the process from doing so? And what should we do next in order to achieve STC? Deviations from the STC are, under this definition, not viewed as a failure of the ideal solution, but rather as enabling access to an ever-deeper and therefore more professional understanding of one’s own business processes. Anyone working using “STC” considers the following:
“In the world of “Lean”, there are lots of topics that attract more attention than PDCA. Commonly known as a phrase, it’s astonishingly rare for this fundamental Lean tool to be applied systematically. This could be attributable to the perceived effort associated with PDCA. In the face of tight staff resources and after a labour-intensive optimisation project, who wants to invest in a similarly intensive process of continual improvement according to PDCA?
I first heard about PDCA during my training and didn’t pay it any more attention. Today, PDCA is the motor driving our ‘Lean efforts’.
Anyone who applies Lean effectively does so for a good reason and with the following considerations:
In several companies, Lean has been used to achieve a lot and develop a stable base. However, there is still much more to do. Lean routines offer the chance to attain a higher “Lean level” and to develop Lean further, with a view to achieving a real competitive advantage. Get going!
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