Lean Manufacturing Gets Lean Results – Is it worth it?

Piggy BankIn 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

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.

Have you experienced difficulty implementing Lean Manufacturing/Six Sigma programs? Let us know.


2 thoughts on “Lean Manufacturing Gets Lean Results – Is it worth it?

  1. Jim

    We have been working towards a full Lean Six Sigma deployment but it has not been easy. The concentration has been narrow focused and un sustainable. We do use, as much as possible, the most updated technologies but this seams to be too intimidating to the users. also, there needs to be a more basic Poke Yoke ways for this to take hold. this is what we are trying to resolve. We are using more Kaizen events with the right teams to build a strong community of practice.
    I also think we are looking into a too narrow approach. One of our major drivers in cost is infrastructure. and Engineering this should be our focus.

    1. cimx Post author

      Jim, I apologize, but it appears your original post was lost in the shuffle! It sounds like you are on the right track with the practices you had instituted so far. How has the initiative gone? Has it met with any success, or has it gone the way of so many good intentions. Please let us know. Any insight you have may help other manufacturers facing the same challenges.


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