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The Other Lean Manufacturing Tools

By Roger Price - September 4, 2015
other-lean-manufacturing-tools

Some of you may remember the commercials that ran in the late 1980s and early 1990s promoting the benefits of pork. Those commercials always ended with the slogan, “Pork. The other white meat.” There were two apparent reasons for this ad campaign from what I can tell. The first is that the National Pork Board wanted to sell more pork by positioning it as a better alternative to chicken or fish. The second is that many people believe white meat is healthier than red meat, so it made sense to reinforce the idea through advertising that their product is healthy.

I don’t know why those commercials have stuck in my brain (I think it has something to do with the music), and I don’t know to what extent they were successful in driving sales. But those commercials came to mind this week as I was pulling together my thoughts for this post. Perhaps by the end you’ll understand why.

So-Called Lean Manufacturing “Tools”

If you run an internet search for Lean manufacturing tools, you’ll get a list of web sites that refer to specific concepts or methods that have developed over time to accomplish the primary objective of Lean (i.e., eliminate waste to build a competitive advantage).

A select few of these “tools” include:

  • 5S
  • SMED
  • Kaizen
  • Heijunka
  • Standard Work
  • Visual Management
  • 5-Why Problem Solving
  • Kanban System
  • Value Stream Mapping
You get the idea. In my view though it’s a mistake to position the methods above as “tools” because the term mischaracterizes what they really do for the business. Let me use a simple analogy to explain what I mean. Let’s pretend that you’re an artist who is looking for ways to improve the quality and artistic appeal of your paintings. So you start studying different painting methods and you learn about impasto painting and fresco painting and prestezza painting and brunaille painting among others. By mastering and applying these various methods, you see a vast improvement in the quality of your art and start to generate new demand for your work. These methods, much like the list above, are the vehicle through which you improve. Your tools – brushes, canvas selection, type of paint, etc. – are important as an enabler to your artistic work, but not in the same way as the methods used. Both the methods and the tools are required for you to be a successful artist, but they provide value in clearly distinct ways.

So when we at Phase 5 Group talk about lean manufacturing tools, we aren’t referring to specific methods but to the other tools that you need. Specifically, the tools to help your organization effectively and sustainably manage a Lean implementation (i.e., the Lean equivalent to a paint brush and canvas).

Your Lean manufacturing tools should help you answer questions such as:

  • What are the major sources of waste and inefficiency across my organization and what’s the financial cost to the business associated with them?
  • Are our Lean efforts perfectly aligned to our business strategy?
  • What value has our Lean implementation delivered to the business?
  • What capability gaps exist in our organization and what are we doing to address those gaps?

EON – The Management Platform to Support a Lean Implementation

If your organization struggles to correctly and succinctly answer the above questions, then perhaps you don’t have the right tools to manage your Lean implementation. That’s why we created EON. EON helps you to deploy your strategy and connect your Lean implementation to that strategy in a meaningful way. Clients that use EON have greater visibility into the nature and status of all improvement work taking place across their organization. Additionally, EON helps companies to apply the proper Lean methods in order to extract maximum value from their Lean implementation.

To learn more about how EON can support your Lean implementation, please contact us today.

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