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How Can a Lean Manufacturing Consultant Turn Around Your Factory?

October 21, 2022

 by David Collins III

Manufacturing workers

A lean manufacturing consultant can turn your factory around in two critical ways: finding and eliminating waste throughout the production process and providing the tools for your factory to implement lean methods and continue improvement in the future.

What Lean is About

Lean is about eliminating waste and creating processes and a culture of continuous improvement. Lean improvement requires both of these elements.

In our previous blog, we discussed the 7 types of waste. Those are:

  • Overproduction
  • Inventory
  • Defects
  • Motion
  • Overprocessing
  • Waiting (time)
  • Transportation

Building processes and a culture of continuous improvement is how the advantages of lean implementation are sustained and built on.

Eliminating Waste 

Eliminating waste will increase all aspects of production: reduced costs, higher quality, better delivery, and a safer work environment. Waste is inherently part of manufacturing, and there are always opportunities for improvement.

Some aspects of waste are easy to spot, such as bottlenecks in production, excessive work-in-progress, etc. They may be easy to spot but solving them may not be as simple. Other wastes may be harder to identify, such as the source of the specific defect. Either way, a lean consultant will help you understand the source of the waste in your factories and provide solutions to lessen or eliminate the waste.

Building Continuous improvement

As important as eliminating waste is building a culture that constantly strives to improve and eliminate waste as it occurs or, better yet, before it occurs. A strong continuous improvement mindset and culture is the gift that keeps on giving. It empowers workers to find solutions and make changes without direction from their supervisors or management.

What a Lean Manufacturing Consultant Does to Turn around a Factory in the short term?

That is useful information, but how does lean manufacturing turn around a factory? A good lean consultant should be able to do both tasks specified here. One without the other is not nearly as effective. Our partner, Renaud Anjoran, clearly shows how training by itself is often ineffective in China.

What Will an Engagement Look Like?

A lean manufacturing consultant (or team of consultants) would assess the factory and identify areas of waste. Most factories have challenges with multiple types of waste. The consultant will target the biggest pain points and the wastes that are the quickest fixes. Sometimes these are the same; sometimes, they are not.

The Lean consultant will work directly with the factory supervisors and operators to implement the changes. These changes can fundamentally change how the factory operates by, amount other things, standardizing work and streamlining operations.

We have often found that many factory operations are performed through experience rather than through a standardized process. That means that operators primarily use their experience to do their job rather than following a set of standards. The operator knows the quirks of the machinery he or she is working with rather than fixing the underlying problem and gauges quality by experience rather than set requirements. Operator experience is valuable, however, working in this manner leaves considerable room for error and also places the operation in a difficult position if that operator is injured, leaves, or otherwise is no longer available.

The lean consultant will help the operators create standards and work instructions to maintain consistency through production. This will lead to higher productivity and make it much easier to train new operators as needed.

This is just one of the tools that a lean consultant brings to turn around a factory in the short run.

What a Lean Manufacturing Consultant Does to Turnaround a Factory in the long run?

Improvement efforts that do not lead to long-term changes in operations are a true turnaround. Here is where a lean manufacturing consultant provides the greatest benefit: providing the training, follow-up, and assistance to make the improvements a permanent part of the company operations and foster a culture of continuous improvement.

Sadly, all things tend towards entropy, and people will tend to go back to the old, less effective methods unless a consistent effort is applied to solidify these gains. This is where the lean consultant comes in. The consultant can reinforce the improvements and provide training to the staff on how to apply the lean methods throughout their work. Lean consultants can also identify 'Hidden Factories' and implement lean principles to help turn your factory around.

The Bottom Line

It takes time for changes to become the new normal. Follow-ups and adjustments through the process help internalize the changes and provide the staff with a sense of accomplishment and improvement. A good lean manufacturing consultant supplies that and can change improvements to a true turnaround.

As Renaud mentioned, training by itself will not produce the results desired. It is only by mixing practical improvements with training and continuous support can you achieve the results you want for your factory.

 


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Topics: Lean Manufacturing, Manufacturing Consulting, Manufacturing In China, Process Improvement

David Collins III

David Collins III

David was a Senior Strategy Consultant for Deloitte, served in Iraq as a Special Operations Civil Affairs soldier, and as a Governance Advisor to the Afghan Government with the Department of State. At CMC, David advises clients on strategy and investments.

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