The Lean Journey and your Human Infrastructure

In today’s world, and with this employment market – you cannot even catch your breath.


After the marketplace corrects itself with jobs and pay, things will start to settle down again – someday.


Turnover and attrition have created a revolving door in our factories, and whatever HR developmental work that was being done previously, has given way to massive recruiting and on-boarding exercises.


Even our shopfloor trainers have been doing double duty with on-boarding new employees. Our shopfloor colleagues can always benefit from the HR group by having them join the Shopfloor scoreboard meeting, participating in the problem-solving process, or simply being knowledgeable about the current levels of standard work training that continues...


DO NOT forget about your management team!


Nothing is more difficult than running a successful production department, especially in these trying times. Just getting machines covered with your labor is a monumental chore every single morning. There is a reason we struggle in getting good production management personnel into our factories. We do not pay for and select the right candidates. There is also a lack of commitment to the development of the personnel we do end up hiring. We do not support them like we did 10 years ago. Forget the stability phase, with this real-world regular turnover, we are just barely getting by.


Many companies have struggled with reducing supervisors and managers and transitioning them to “Working Leaders”. How has that worked for you? Are they qualified? Do you have an aggressive training program in place to enhance their skill sets in managing others? Probably not.


Tomorrow, go ask one of your production supervisors when was the last time they received any quality training to make him or her a better production supervisor.



Take advantage of your New Model Launch for Organizational Development


One of the best organizational development opportunities does not really have anything to do with the Human Resources group. It is the direct responsibility of the senior leadership of your company.


There are some natural starting points where you can create tangible “Lean Mastery” into your culture, and one of those points is during the new model launch phase. With some foresight and planning you can put a small team of high potential engineers into an emersion process of lean design, facilitation, training, and production launch so they get a chance to make it real and run it like a true lean value stream.


My experience is that it is a two-year commitment by the senior management teams to make this happen. Don’t forget the production run portion of this opportunity. We want this group to understand how production runs after the launch period and what it is like answering to your happy customer on a weekly basis. The following outline is what this lean learning might look like.


1. Interview High Potential Engineering Candidates as a base to work from.

If you have some bright shopfloor production supervisors, then they could make the roster as well. One of our DIG Sr. Lean Consultants Nathan Hafner, was once part of this group and he has grown into a great Lean Master.


2. Have them heavily integrated and participate in the 3P Line Design Process.

Have your new launch work with your integrators and corporate engineering staff to understand accurate volume assumptions, Takt Time, Cellular Layouts, Lean Material Handling methods, Standard Work for Operators, Autonomous Maintenance access points etc... If you need any help with this workshop, think about using my partner, Mel Zehnpfennig. He is very good at this process and has saved our clients millions of dollars on un-necessary capital, labor, and space.


3. After the 3P workshop, have them specifically assigned to your engineering group for integrator follow up.

Regardless of what is agreed upon for assumptions on uptime, OEE, machine cycle times, etc... The vendor will always try to sell you more manufacturing process than you need. Someone must be there and work with them on the lean principles or it will all go to hell. There is always work to be done in this phase on FMEAs, Quality Systems Critical Checks, Control Plans, Error Proofing from lessons learned, Standard Work Instructions, etc... This is key foundation work, and your high potential team should be a big part of understanding these processes.


Another one of our DIG Sr. Lean consultants Jeff Slater helped me work on the Standard Work portion of a U625 launch a few years back. He is one of the best at Operator Standard Work out of anyone I know. What attention to detail!


4. Have your team lead the training of your production team prior to the launch period.

Have the operators join the run at rate activities to give open and honest feedback on gauges, fixtures, run button locations, light screen improvements, material handling issues, etc... This has always been one of the most satisfying things for me to do personally. Even in a heavy unionized environment, we asked the employees to rotate every hour during the run at rate periods, to help get more eyes and hands across the loading fixtures.


5. Run the Production Department for the next 12-24 months! Talk about ownership.

There is nothing better in the world than knowing how all of this now works together. The up-front engineering exercises and reality sinks in. The engineering changes that drive you crazy. What got missed on part presentation? Where are the cycle time improvements coming from? Quality, Quality, Quality. How is your team shaping up?


Summary: Your Lean Journey can be a challenging one in today’s environment. Going

through an assessment process can be a big help but will not really get you there unless you have done the right thing from the get-go. Consider putting together some of your best for your next big production launch. If you need to move people from location to location – then do the right thing. A full lean cycle for your brightest and best can be just the right ticket.



What is your Lean Launch strategy?


Call us at the Dynamic Improvement Group for help and coaching.

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