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Making Organisations Stronger Through Lean Thinking

Businesses should adopt these lean concepts of manufacturing if they want to achieve enhanced operational efficiency and robust bottom-line and top lines.

Deepak Gupta

LEAN stands for slim and trim manufacturing, making better quality and quantity using least of all the resources – money, human and machine time, materials and space. Lean thinking says ‘do more with less’. At least a 25% jump can be achieved in quality, productivity, delivery performance, safety and motivation levels within the first year of dedicated implementation of this methodology. As wastes are reduced, the cost goes down, and profits go up. Customers feel delighted while employees feel safe and happy, making balance sheets better and business sustainable. Many companies have even become debt-free following the reduction of working capital and inventories by using lean methods.

The Ministry of MSME has been encouraging the adoption of lean manufacturing systems through the formation of clusters and subsidisation of consulting fees. According to the Ministry’s website, nearly 4,000 units have enrolled under lean. Money savings of Rs 15 lakh per unit on average have been achieved in completed clusters, with some of the units saving over Rs 50 lakh over 18 months, majorly through space-saving, workforce reduction and waste elimination.

The tree depicts lean thinking. The roots represent methods that are enablers. Once they are made strong with effort and care by the involvement of everyone in the organisation, beautiful fruits can be earned forever.

Eight types of wastes (defects, overproduction, waiting, not using hidden talent, transportation, inventories, motion, excess processing) are identified and slowly eliminated using Total Employee Involvement. Continuous training and motivation through the Kaizen scheme make everyone fully engaged, as they work as owners and as a team.

The 5S System makes the workplace feel like a temple, and then work becomes worship.

‘Train-Train-Train’ and ‘Trust People’ is the culture that is required for lean to be a success. Leaders must demonstrate understanding and implementation of the lean system by spending time with their people on the shop floor. This is the renowned 3G System, where visual boards inform the teams of their status and results every hour and day, making it easy for quick corrections. Production is halted when a defect is found, so no defect ever reaches the customers.

Machines are taken care of by the operators themselves, by following the CLIT (Clean-Lubricate-Inspect-Tighten) system. ‘I love my machine’ is the motto. This reduces breakdowns and problems and frees the maintenance teams for conducting periodic, more in-depth checks and predictive maintenance.

Work standards are developed by inviting suggestions from engineers and operators and are mostly depicted through pictures. The pictures are used for training and also for making further improvements (Kaizens). The average number of Kaizens per person per year in Toyota Motors is over 30, and most employee suggestions are implemented and rewarded.

Lean thinking also advocates that few people should not be glamorised, leaving many other demoralised. DWM (Daily Work Management) is a necessary discipline to be followed diligently by everyone, from the top floor to the shop floor.


JIDHOKA means built-in quality, i.e. quality by design. Using the widely acknowledged Deming PDCA cycle, substantial time must be spent on planning and prevention by taking the views of all stakeholders well in advance. This ensures near first-time-right performances. Quality is controlled at the source by training all the operators as inspectors. They form quality circles and, through scientific problem-solving methods of 7QC Tools, solve problems as they occur. Mass production is achieved through one-piece flow system, as against the conventional batch production system.

POKA-YOKE devices prevent defects and make zero-defect goals possible. JIT (Just-In-Time) manufacturing ensures near stock-less production. Work-in-progress inventory is considered to be the most significant waste of resources since it acts as a speed breaker to the flow of manufacturing.

Kanban cards are used to pull parts from one stage to the other in exact quantity at exact times as needed, thus eliminating a lot of waste and saving space and workforce while making production agile and flexible.

LEAN is the most powerful working method in the world… adopt it fast to succeed forever.

The author is Founder of SUCH Management Research Group.


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