Everybody wants to train

Posted on 16 Sep 2011 by The Manufacturer

Roberto Priolo goes back in a classroom to attend a course on lean

This week I have attended an introductory course on lean organised by consultancy firm oee. Normally I wouldn’t jump for joy at the idea of sitting in a classroom again, but this was a great opportunity for me to both see where I am with my knowledge on the subject and to look around and understand what companies look for when they consider embarking on a lean journey.

The first thing that struck me as the trainer went around the room asking everybody to introduce themselves was the incredible variety of professionals who joined the course.

It astounded me to see companies from so many different sectors and backgrounds come together with the common purpose of learning how to get rid of waste and improve processes in a bid to achieve operational excellence and forge services and products around the customer’s specifications.

However, I hadn’t expected the diverse, opinionated and knowledge-craving bunch I sat with for the one-day training.

I was happy to notice that my initial idea that, after all, lean is all about common sense turned out to be true: in class I knew my muda from my muri, and as value-added and waste came up in the lecture I was happy to see how it all made perfect sense in my head. In school, I was never a geek, so this was a pleasant change.

What really impressed me, however, was the wide array of companies showing up at the training to learn more about lean and maybe prepare for a continuous improvement programme. People came from sectors as diverse as banking, local government agencies, firms operating in healthcare and service providers. You can have an idea of how little this group related to engineering and factories, which is what I expected, if you think that the person in there with the closest connection to manufacturing was me… a journalist.

Unsurprisingly, attendees shared the same problems and aspirations. More importantly, everybody saw an interesting opportunity in lean, and was eager to know more.

I am a practical person, and the exercises and games used to deliver certain concepts were very useful for me to cement my understanding of some of the subjects I had touched on during my month here at the Lean Management Journal.

Manufaturing may not have had any representatives sitting at the desks of the conference room, but it was a very important presence in there nonetheless, not only because lean was born within a manufacturing environment, but also because the exercises we did related to, simply put, making things.

In a few hours we were showed how much can be achieved in terms of productivity and cost reduction by making simple, zero-cost changes to the layout of a facility and to the organisation of time in a simulated manufacturing environment and by multiskilling. During this practical exercise, in which two groups had to build a certain object using components provided at the beginning, I was a forklift first and a line operator afterwards. It’s amazing how big a part of a group you feel when there is a common sense of purpose and a drive to do better. Now it occurs to me, lean helps to bring people together by opening up communication channels and aligning a company with its customers. It may sound cheesy, but when we all work together the outcome is generally more positive than when we don’t.