Lean Manufacturing in Action with Dean Schroeder
Dean Schroeder is a Lean Manufacturing Expert. Video is from the New Zealand Trade & Enterprise Summit.
The Role of Front-Line Ideas in Lean Manufacturing Improvement
by Alan G. Robinson, University of Massachusetts & Dean M. Schroeder, Valparaiso University
Companies are increasingly embracing lean manufacturing techniques in their efforts to improve performance. Yet the majority of these companies fail to tap the full potential of “going lean.” By comparing a sample
of successful lean manufacturing initiatives with less successful ones as defined by the rate of ongoing productivity improvement, let’s identify a critical component that often is missing in under performing initiatives. The ability to get large numbers of improvement ideas from front line employees.
High-performing idea systems which the authors define as those that implement 12 or more ideas per employee per year, were found to be a major factor in successful lean initiatives, for three reasons. First, they created a “lean manufacturing culture” of daily improvement. Second, they addressed improvement opportunities that were difficult for managers to spot. Third, they promoted rapid organizational learning.
In addition to demonstrating the importance of high-performing idea systems for lean, this research provides insight into why such systems are relatively rare: 1 the predominance of the suggestion-box paradigm; and 2 they frequently require significant and difficult changes in operating practices. Key words: idea system, lean, organizational learning, suggestion system.
Over the last three decades, an increasing number of manufacturing and service organizations have embraced lean manufacturing as a way to improve performance (Chase and Stewart 1994; Schonberger 2007; Swank 2003; Womack and Jones 2005). But more recently, a number of experts have noted that other than Toyota, few companies have been truly successful at becoming lean (Womack and Jones 1996; Liker 2004; Liker and Hoseus 2007; Spear and Bowen 1999). The consensus explanation of this phenomenon seems to be that many leaders of companies that start lean efforts lack a real understanding of the principles involved and, therefore, focus on the short-term application of isolated tools rather than the deeper changes necessary.