Documented Expectations to Sustain Lean

You and your company have been implementing Lean for the last 12 months and things are starting to look good. We have begun to define the new roles at each level in the organisation and how we want our new production system to be run and to sustain lean actions. Our challenge now is to sustain lean actions and continue to build on them.

While everyone has a clear picture in their head as to how each cell works and how the kanban systems tie Production into Stores, it is really important to document these processes and agreements.

Initially these documented processes are important as training documents. They make sure everyone is on the same page and has the same understanding as to how their role fits into their cells workings, and the overall Production system. Each person’s role is the key to successful Lean implementation. Defining roles with key responsibilities at every level in the Production system will also allow the company to develop accountability for Lean implementing, as well as the usual Delivery – Cost – Quality metrics. Also the way we plan to keep track of these processes through auditing and checking, are also needed to be documented.

Documenting a Lean Production System

With all of our Lean methodologies, when we talk about Lean documenting, we’re not talking about reams of paper in folders that never get read. Here we are talking about a location to store all of the one-page plans and the supporting data used to create the Production System and factory layouts in the first place. It needs to all be stored in a folder – NOT on someones computer so that it’s easily forgotten when they leave.

Cell Manual

The first level of documentation is a simple Cell manual, under the ownership of the cell leader or team leader. This document will be used to remind the cell leader of the key tasks he needs to do each day and across each week. It will also be useful for a team member to jump into the role when the team leader is away.

This document will also help the team clearly understand how the cell was developed and as production needs change, the manual becomes the baseline to determine if a major review of the cell philosophy is needed. As new supervisors or Production Managers arrive, these cell manuals will help them understand how the cell works, who the key people are and how the cell is measured

 A Cell Manual may include:

– List of top level assemblies or deliverables

– 5S agreements

– Cell layout

– Workstation layout and tooling

– Production board layout and blank copies of metrics

– Skills matrix

– Key quality processes

– Kanban one page plan

– List of part numbers under the kanban process

Production Manual

Keeping up the simplicity theme, rather than having a range of manuals for Supervisors, Production Managers, General managers and any other level of management you may have, one Production Manual to cover all of these functions is sufficient. This can be the starting point of “how we do business” across all of Production and MUST include how each level of management supports the cells to allow them to achieve their targets.

The Production Manual needs to be a physical folder – NOT hidden away on a computer – and responsibility assigned to the General Manager.

This manual also needs to clearly define all audit and review processes for the Lean processes and systems and hold management as accountable as each cell leader is for continuous improvement across the company. As stated previously, these review processes can be simple – just get everyone together and check to see what parts are working and what has changed; can the defined process cope with the current changes? If yes, great: if not, then amendments are needed.


While reviewing the last 12 months, gather together all of those parts lists and one-page plans and get them into one folder for each cell. Develop the manuals over time with the stakeholders and keep it a live document, reviewing it every six months at least. And make time to review it properly, especially when you feel you don’t have the time – that’s when Lean systems begin to get tested. And they need YOUR support to keep them of track, so you can always see how far you’ve come along your Lean journey.

when should you start implementing lean principles in a project
When should you start implementing lean principles in a project
Michelle Brown

Author: Michelle Brown

Michelle Brown is a Senior Lean Consultant at TXM Lean Solutions.