Getting Started With Lean

Posted By: Chad Vincent, Director of Lean Manufacturing, American Railcar Industries on February 26, 2019

Chad Vincent, Director of Lean Manufacturing, American Railcar Industries

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 optimize success.

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 transformation . Identify a “change champion”—someone in a leadership position who is willing to encourage and support the team throughout their lean journey.

4) 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 quarter.

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.



Tags: "American Railcar Industries", "Chad Vincent", "continuous improvement", lean, "lean transformation", "lean certification", "lean manufacturing", MSC, "Six Sigma", "Tooling U-SME"