Putting the Lean Tools Together

Whether you are just starting out in your lean journey, need a little brush up or well established in your Lean Enterprise system and are ready to train new-comers, understanding how the Lean Tools fit together for your business and style of lean becomes an important part of your communication and rollout. Each phase will have a different emphasis on the tools. Some that are important in the beginning will become foundation principles to build your Lean Enterprise system upon. Others will only become entrenched when most people across the business understand their importance; only then will the high-level tools take on a life of their own in the part they play. Here we will look at some of the tools needed at the three different stages of Lean Enterprise implementation.

Lean Enterprise Tools Jigsaw

Lean Tools for Getting Started

When you are just starting out on your Lean journey and exploration, it can feel like learning a whole new language and business culture. Some of the case studies can seem like these companies are from Mars or an industry so unrelated to yours that it’s hard to find relevance in them. That’s where the guidance of an expert TXM Lean Consultant can help out. Seeing many, many companies each year at varying stages of your Lean Journeys helps us to see which of the tools work best at the different phases of implementation.

There are two main approaches to starting Lean Journey – the slow and steady “Doing Lean for the long term” approach and the more urgent “burning platform” approach. While both of these approaches can take a company towards the same Lean vision, often the amount of attention and resources allocated to the project are very different.

“Doing Lean for the long term” approach can begin with a small team of people (maybe even just one person) who understands your business and can take the time to review the company data in the form of a “Parts  Quantity” Analysis  or an initial “Plan for Every Part”. This leads into understanding your value streams for the key part families within your business and delving into how your company REALLY runs, with all of its formal and informal systems interlinking to get product out of the door every day.

Urgent “burning platform” Lean implementation may need to return to parts and value stream analysis once things have settled down, but often a few people have been pulled together to get some major improvements done NOW. These type of implementations will need everyone helping out, so broad communication is important. Improving housekeeping through P5S is a good way to include every team in the improvements, while using it as platform to gather ideas from all areas of the business to identify where the major problems lie and set about addressing those. Remember that your business is a system, so tinkering with one area will have an impact on many other areas, so make sure there are good communication practices in place to gather honest feedback about the good and bad results throughout your company as the Lean implementation is rolled out. Good visual management processes  for communication and parts supply is vital in getting everyone on the same page and working towards a common goal.


Lean Tools for Brushing Up

With the Lean foundation elements in place, there may be a time where your Lean Enterprise system needs a bit of a Spring clean and your Lean Tools need a brushing up. This is the time to review your documentation to check your Lean systems are still aligned with the original intent. If the documentation was skipped during the flurry of implementation, this is the time to review key processes and get them written into Single Point Lessons with the agreement of the work team. Key processes may include scheduling, reporting, daily meetings format, part supply systems and training.

Another key element for brushing up on your Lean Tools is having clear leadership expectations throughout your business. The TXM Lean Daily Leadership Process (LDLP) is a great way to define and communicate expectations at all leadership levels  and provides a method to objectively check the status of each team against the criteria. As your Lean Enterprise processes mature, LDLP can be expanded to include the new elements as they are implemented.

Lean Daily Leadership Process

 Lean Tools for Well Established Lean Enterprise Systems

Once your Lean enterprise system is will established you will realise that it is never perfect and there is always improvement opportunities. Tuning the entire workforce into seeking these opportunities, and having system in place to review and act of these opportunities, is the Hallmark of a truly Lean company. Solving Problems Every Day (SPED) is a practical approach to capturing, implementing and reviewing improvement opportunities across your business. As your Lean System matures, embedding the SPED process down into your work teams, with support from Engineering and other departments, will enable you to tap into the greatest resource your company has – your people.

Lean Manufacturing problem solving

In Conclusion

Seeing how the Lean tools fit together at different stages of your Lean implementation will help in reduce the feeling of overwhelm that is often experienced when starting out on your Lean Enterprise Journey. A TXM Lean Consultant can guide you through the Lean Tools and align their use to your Lean Vision. This can be done at the “Getting Started” phase, the “Brushing Up” phase and even refining your processes once well established.

Michelle Brown

Author: Michelle Brown

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