Lots of companies want to get lean. And some of those companies will actually implement lean optimization. But some of those companies will fail to implement properly because they forget about a pivotal element of lean production – lean training.
Too many businesses think lean production, or logistics and supply chain management, only means eliminating waste and optimizing processes. Lean training is just as important. Don’t be mistaken by the word “training”. Training sounds one way – and lean training is anything but.
Lean training takes many forms. It can be the process of teaching workers new lean processes, e.g. training dock workers on new flow routes and stacking procedures i.e. something sometimes as simple as stacking from left to right than from right to left that is going to save 3 hours a week in labor. But the more interesting aspect of lean training is when it encourages employees to actually think lean, and to help refine lean processes. Training encourages a corporate culture to shift to lean because it demonstrates management’s commitment to lean. More than that – lean training makes sense.
There’s more to training than teaching
Let’s go back to that loading dock that has been re-organized according to lean methodology. Management sees the loading process is falling behind and now knows it’s because the plan in is not being followed. What does good lean management do in this situation? Do they go and follow employees to determine where the plan is going off the rails? Or do they turn to the employees as a team and ask, “what is going wrong?”
If you chose Door #2 you’re on the right track. Good lean methodology is a company wide practice. And part of that practice is training employees to constantly re-evaluate, find and eliminate the waste, and work with the new improved processes. That’s part of making the process work.
The other part of the process is good training encourages feedback. Lean works best when everyone buys in – and training gives people the reasons to buy in and tools to be lean. The two work hand in hand – plan + train = best lean practices.
Make knowledge the key
Lean training is the key to getting back on track when lean processes aren’t performing. If your lean plan is not hitting its benchmarks a lack of training is probably one of the reasons. The very first thing that needs to be done is make sure middle managers are completely knowledgeable in the new processes, and able to train the employees they are responsible for in those processes. What’s more – they have to encourage employees to look for bottlenecks and inefficiencies, and pass that information back up the chain.
That is the key to great lean production: constant evaluation and training to maintain the focus on reducing the overall cost and bottom line. The changeover to a lean corporate culture means everyone must focus on eliminating waste, creating efficiencies, and passing on the knowledge.
Don’t forget to include lean training as part of your move to a lean culture – it’s a necessity, not a luxury.