Getting Started With Lean
Chad Vincent, Director of Lean Manufacturing, American Railcar Industries on
February 26, 2019
Chad Vincent is a Continuous Improvement Leader with 20 years of experience, having a
successful record of orchestrating cultural change and improving
organizational performance utilizing Lean, Six Sigma, and other
continuous improvement methodologies. He is the former chair of the Lean Certification Oversight and Appeals
Committee. In this blog post, he discusses how organizations can begin
their lean journey.
Recently, I presented a webinar hosted by Tooling U-SME and MSC on lean and
the immense value it offers for both businesses and individuals.
Implementing lean can encourage an organization’s continuous improvement
and long-term competitive success through the relentless pursuit of
eliminating waste, overburden, and unevenness or irregularities. Many
leaders understand the importance of lean but aren’t sure what the first
step should be. One of the most common questions I’m asked is, “How do we
get started with lean?”
Every organization will take a different journey depending on its specific
challenges and culture, but there are several steps any company can take to
1) The lean transformation must start with leadership.
They must see the value and be able to drive cultural change. If your
organization’s executive team isn’t quite on board with lean, provide white
papers and case studies that demonstrate how other companies have benefited
from lean. Tooling U-SME offers online classes on many lean topics that can
help your leaders better understand the tools and systems.
2) Identify the vision for change. What are your greatest
challenges, and how can lean help with these challenges? Communicate the
vision for change across the entire organization. If you’re going to ask
all employees to change the way they fundamentally think about work, you’ll
need to be able to explain why.
3) Name a leader
who will oversee and take personal responsibility for the lean
. Identify a “change champion”—someone in a leadership position who is
willing to encourage and support the team throughout their lean journey.
Understand the current state of lean in your organization.
This is a great time to conduct a lean assessment that will reveal which,
if any, process improvement systems are in place and the extent to which
people are using lean tools.
5) Set strategic goals. What do you want to improve, to
what extent, and in what timeframe? Set measurable goals, such as reduce
cycle times by 30% by the end of the year, or reduce scrap by 10% this
6) Define a path forward that includes training and
certification. Training is an important part of implementing lean, and
using an outside resource yields the best results for most companies,
particularly if the concept of lean is new to the management team.
7) Experiment. It’s important to remember that lean isn’t
a destination; it’s a process. Be flexible. If something isn’t working, try
another way. I once worked with an organization where, five years into its
lean transformation, we had to take a step back and reassess our lean goals
and strategy. The organization had changed, and this had a significant
impact on the lean journey.
Regardless of how lean gets started in your organization, it has the
potential to improve efficiency and drive results. Businesses will benefit
from increased quality, less waste, better productivity and more, resulting
in a stronger bottom line. The principles of lean manufacturing not only
help organizations perform better, they also help develop employees and
create a more attractive place to work.
To learn more about how lean can benefit individuals and organizations, watch the “Lean In” to Continuous Improvement webinar.
"American Railcar Industries", "Chad Vincent", "continuous improvement", lean, "lean transformation", "lean certification", "lean manufacturing", MSC, "Six Sigma", "Tooling U-SME"