Ever come across someone resistant to change? It happens all the time, right? We all resist change to some degree, and it’s especially common for people to resist changes that suggest an existing method of how they are doing something might be improved. But we live in a marketplace that demands increasing efficiencies, so change we must. Convincing anyone of the imperative that getting better means doing things differently means we must always be ready to refute arguments against maintaining the status quo. You must improve your operations by making them leaner, and that means addressing lean myths and misperceptions.
Myth 1: Batching is better. No one really ever says it that way, but it’s only natural to build up a queue of work and then get to work on it when you’ve got enough of it to work on. We do it in production and we do it in the office. In production we work with parts in one bin and fasten them to the parts in another bin, then push it to the next process. Office work is often handled the same way—think about how many documents have to be created to enter an order, and how many people are involved in processing those orders. The goal, ultimately, is to keep things moving from start to finish. Every time something has to stop and then be restarted time is wasted, and the customer is not interested in paying for wasted time.
Myth 2: Lean is just another way of cutting costs. While lean organizations often do realize cost savings as a result of going lean, the more fundamental purpose is to save time so that we may become more agile and therefore more responsive to our customers needs. Lean processes result in shorter lead times. Shorter lead-times means happier customers.
Myth 3: Lean is just for production. This is an old favorite! With just a little examination, many organizations realize that time to build is often just a fraction of the overall lead time as measured from time of order to time of fulfillment. Creating, reviewing, approving, and managing contracts and orders can be incredibly complex and time-consuming. Very often, the front office part of the overall process is many multiples of the actual manufacturing time. Lead times can be cut significantly without even looking at production processes.
Myth 5: Lean processes must be designed and implemented by lean experts. Nothing could be less true. Actually, the experts you need are already on your payroll! Respect them. The people closest to the processes have the best ability to cause the desired changes, and are the ones most affected by the outcome. Our success depends on their success!
Lean processes, when led and implemented by informed and motivated employees from top to bottom, lead to successful outcomes for the business, the people in it, and most importantly, for the customer. Educating ourselves and our staff about the benefits of lean is critical to achieving buy-in from all parties involved.
About the Authors
Erik Olson is the Senior Manager for Baltimore Operations at RESCO Electronics, a Baltimore based manufacturer of electronic assemblies and value-added reseller of auto-ID equipment to original equipment manufacturers. Erik has worked at RESCO in a variety of locations and roles since joining RESCO in 1993 and has extensive experience in Operations Management, Inventory Management, and Sales.
Erik graduated from St. Mary’s College of Maryland with a Bachelor of Arts in Economics. He resides in Sykesville, MD with his wife and two daughters.