Why Employee training is vital to Lean success


Imagine that you are a Production Manager whose Goals and Objectives are to beat the competition for Productivity:- sounds reasonable, until you realise that the competition is 9 times more productive, has advanced Capital Equipment, (but you have no money to spend), and, unlike yours, their workforce is skilled in making vehicles.

This was exactly the situation facing Taiichi Ohno, in post-war Japan, and how he and his team responded is what eventually became known as the Toyota Production System. It took over 20 years before the West woke up to what had been achieved, too late for many Companies, who could no longer compete. It took about 10 years for the West to recover, mainly with the innovation of Six Sigma from Motorola, but the original mindset stands the test of time. Many Lean programmes thrive upon the reduction of waste as the way to improve Quality, Delivery and gain Competitive advantage, but that is only part of the story, the mindset. Taiichi Ohno realised that all Employees had to contribute to the overall success of his system and that big improvements had to be found, without spending money, by thinking differently.

Several Japanese words have crept into everyday business use: Kaizen and Kanban being the best known, but you do not have to study Japanese to understand the mindset. I aim to explain these and other terms, such as Gemba, 5S, the 7 Wastes and Poke Yoke, so that Employees can contribute more to the success of your Company by appreciating the real use of these tools and techniques.

Lean has received a lot of publicity regarding cost savings; I believe that the empowerment of Employees has been overlooked and should be an integral part in seeking a competitive advantage. However, there does need to be a proper structure and the first part of the project is to establish how the training programme should be constructed by establishing the Company long term vision, goals and objectives.

Lean was originally better-known as Continuous Improvement, implying that the journey never ended, but, whilst Lean has indeed been an Industrial Revolution, there have been too many failed implementations, by placing too much emphasis on certain tools at the expense of a balance for the whole project. This is less likely to happen if the mindset is properly understood.

My role is to work with you to help develop the people you identify to become the Trainers for the rest of your Company.

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