Acknowledging that lean manufacturing processes have revolutionized how best-in-class companies deliver products to their customers and manage their supplier relationships, a new study by the AberdeenGroup also found “a large performance gap” between organizations that limit lean techniques to shop floors versus those that cultivate lean thinking throughout their organizations.
The best practitioners of lean concepts exhibit three common characteristics, according to The Lean Benchmark Report: Closing the Reality Gap:
- The companies dedicate themselves to lean basics, including process streamlining, building well-ordered production environments, and establishing continuous improvement programs.
- They use a technology infrastructure to promote lean techniques and create a “a single version of the truth”
- Best-in-class firms successfully achieve buy-in to lean philosophies from a wide range of staff members, from senior managers to those on the manufacturing line.
Technology is helping these firms become more competitive by offering tools for continually measuring, monitoring, and responding to important performance metrics, the report said
Finally, the report offers advice on how companies that haven’t reached best-in-class status can improve their lean implementations:
- Map the resources needed to deliver specific products to specific customers and identify waste. Then focus on eliminating those problem areas.
- Improve the work environment with “the 5S’s” (sort, set in order, shine, standardize, sustain).
- Track key metrics such as yield, throughput, and quality before and after a lean pilot project goes online. They identify additional lean opportunities in those operations.
- The payoff for achieving these characteristics is high, the report adds. Eight percent of the best-in-class companies say lean strategies met or exceeded their performance expectations in customer-service and supply-chain flexibility.
This article was original published in the Oracle Lean Manufacturing newsletter, October 2006.