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How to Optimise Your Lean Manufacturing Training for Chinese Factories

December 7, 2022

 by David Collins III

Factory Machinery

Many Chinese factories we work with ask us how they can make their employees more engaged. They know that engaged employees are more productive and have better retention than unengaged employees. Some have tried known methods from their predecessors like raising rates and/or reducing hours - essentially offering incentives for higher production. None of this has proven to be effective and finding successful systems seems to elude them.  

Instead of implementing ineffective techniques, we recommend that factories provide their employees lean manufacturing training to increase motivation and productivity. Over the years, we at MTG/CMC have written on implementing lean manufacturing training extensively and how it is a fantastic tool to improve employee engagement and overall productivity.  We have compiled a list of ‘Do’s’ and ‘Don’ts’ that will help you build the right training programme.

Lean Manufacturing Training: Do’s and Don'ts 

DO have a Lean Manufacturing Training before you attempt to implement lean 

Holding a training before trying to implement Lean may seem obvious, but many lean programs recommend moving directly to hands-on learning, and in our experience, this method is not effective in China. 

Bob Mallard, one of our partners, experienced this firsthand when he ran a factory in China, and brought in a group of lean manufacturing trainers to teach the employees how to implement lean. The trainers offered the Chinese workers no background information, no introduction, or any beginner material. Instead, they jumped right into using lean tools to solve factory problems - a learn-by-doing approach to lean. This led to the Chinese workers being confused and disengaged, they did not understand what they were doing or why. Bob stopped the training and held a class for everyone to teach lean fundamentals, the workers were more engaged with their work and ready to put the principles they learned to good use.

DON’T try to do it yourself without training

Lean is conceptually simple and may seem like something that can be implemented with a little reading and a basic understanding. A big misconception. Like many seemingly simple ideas, Lean is difficult to implement without someone that knows the system. Outside assistance with training and implementation is quicker, easier, and much more likely to be successful. 

DO have a plan for lean training and implementation

While we recommend a lean training session before trying to implement lean, the overall lean training is likely to fail if there is no plan with clear progress markets and objectives. The goal of lean training is to effect a cultural change at the factory and that is not something that happens overnight or without support. 

DO reward initiative 

Lean is not just training and a set of activities, it is a mindset and needs constant encouragement. When workers put lean principles into action, make sure that they are rewarded. The reward does not have to be monetary. Recognition, a special lunch, a small gift, etc. can go a longer way than a cash bonus.

DON’T stifle innovation  

This can be especially difficult for companies with an old-school “I am the boss, do it my way” mentality. Just as you should reward initiative, do not take actions that stifle innovation. Actions such as punishing employees for trying to implement an improvement that does not work out or not giving “high efficiency” teams time to work. 

The goal of any leader should be to improve performance and outcomes, not to hold to the same way of business because “that is how it has always been done”. Give your operators space and support to improve the operation, and they will do that. 

DO support lean from the top down

No program or training is effective if it does not have management support. Once operators, supervisors, managers, etc. see that the boss does not support lean, they will stop using it. No system or process will be used if people are not rewarded and supported for using it. 

Lean manufacturing training is a process that is not complete after one session. Manufacturing training, both in a class and on the job, must work together to accomplish the desired results. 

Bottom Line 

Overall, the dos and don'ts of lean manufacturing training are important to consider when trying to improve your manufacturing process. By following these simple guidelines, you can ensure that your training is effective and helps improve your overall manufacturing process.

Interested in how CMC can improve your factory processes and productivity? Click below.

Two men in factory working on machinery

Topics: Lean Manufacturing

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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