Lean improvement programmes have become an almost universal characteristic of manufacturing organisations in the UK, yet it is undeniable that many fail to achieve the returns reported also often in case studies. Jane Gray asks if lean can really let manufacturers have their cake and eat it, or if there is always compromise to be made.
Despite a few examples of true lean transformation and exponential improvement, many organisations find that lean improvement in one area merely causes problems elsewhere — and most struggle to make lean programmes incur any impact on the bottom line.
The reasons for this vary, but a common problem is the difficulty companies have with understanding the end-to-end dynamics of their business and the interdependencies that make getting meaningful improvement more complicated than optimising parts for a better whole. Counter-intuitive thinking and localised trade-offs are often needed.
To explain this thinking further and suggest some scenarios where counter intuitive thinking might be useful, the following individuals have submitted their observations for TM readers to consider:
Acknowledgements go to John Bicheno, author of The Lean Toolbox and Introduction to Lean, for influencing this response.