In a recent survey by AlixPartners of 100 C-level and senior-level manufacturing executives across a variety of industries, it was reported that most manufacturers failed to reach their cost-savings targets despite investing heavily in lean manufacturing. 70% of manufacturing executives reported that their lean initiatives led to only a 5% reduction in manufacturing costs, the minimum threshold for successful productivity programs. The majority of executives were very concerned about sustaining the small results they did achieve.The question remains then, is lean manufacturing worth it?
A Cultural Change
Lean manufacturing is a strategy to help manufacturers remove non-value added tasks from the production process through continuous improvement. The study suggests that the lackluster cost savings can be attributed to the failure to “institutionalize the improvements.” Many manufacturers focus on the specific requirements and processes to be included in the initiative rather than on basic execution and sustainability of the program. A process change without a cultural change is almost always a temporary change. Processes will gradually return to the way they used to be if there is not technology to keep the new processes in place. Lean manufacturing truly is a continuous process.
The key to achieving long-term productivity benefits is to focus on technologies that not only remove non-value-added tasks from the production process, but also prevents them from creeping back in the future. Shop floor technologies are great enablers of lean manufacturing initiatives. Built in best practices handle procedural enforcement ensuring that tasks are worked in sequence and all signoffs and data collection are completed without exception. Product operations become permanently lean allowing manufacturers to garner sustainable long-term cost-benefits.
Can lean manufacturing programs be successful and cost-effective? The answer is always yes. However, manufacturers must focus on a cultural change to achieve sustainability of the program. A proven way to make a cultural change is to focus on shop floor technology that actually changes and improves the environment. This allows manufacturers to achieve a higher percentage of savings compared to lean initiatives alone and retain the gains far into the future.
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