Lean Manufacturing: Creating the Conversation for Change

lean manufacturing lean management system darcorWhat do you do with an 80-year-old “start-up” company that wants to transform itself? Start a conversation on what is important – lean manufacturing.

Darcor Casters and Wheels has been in the business of high performance caster solutions for more than 85 years. They have run their business successfully based on the principle of committing to excellence and leveraging research and development to build technologically superior products. The Darcor management team realized the need to not just focus on technology but to improve manufacturing processes by concentrating on continuous improvement. This is what Darcor is doing to make a change from a traditional management system to a lean management system.

What’s the Difference between a Traditional Management System and a Lean Management System?

In a traditional management system, employees are mostly told what to do and have limited opportunity to provide input on what is important. There is limited transparency on what the organization’s problems are. Problems may be contained but are rarely solved.

A lean management system creates alignment to a common purpose, creates transparency on what the organization’s problems are, and engages all employees through active involvement in solving the organization’s roadblocks to achieve their purpose. Lean manufacturing and continuous improvement go hand-in-hand. Read Continuous Improvement vs. Lean Manufacturing to find out more.

To start their lean journey, Darcor established both production planning and performance control boards in primary production areas. The performance control boards provide teams with measures that support the organization’s strategic direction and a method to solve problems. To be effective, the lean management system needs an operating rhythm that creates conversations and transparency on what is important and encourages accountability and action.

A Day in the Life of Darcor’s Lean Management System in Action

Let’s take a look at Darcor’s lean management system in action as a production day begins:

7:00 a.m. – Team leaders meet with their production teams, communicate the plan for the day including any safety or quality issues that are important. They also discuss what problems need to be addressed.

7:15 a.m. – Team leaders meet with the production, quality, customer support team leaders. Each leader reports on their plan for the day and what concerns they have for safety, quality, and delivery. The team leaders talk about what problems they are going to address and what support they need.

8:30 a.m. – The entire operations team meets at the operation team’s accountability board to discuss the prior day’s performance and what they need to do to support production and the team leaders. Actions are documented on the accountability board. Actions that are due that day are discussed to determine if they have been completed and what other support is needed.

A Focus on Lean Manufacturing Results in Improved Communications & Problem Solving and Better Alignment with Organizational Priorities

The results have been very good for what seems to be simple actions. The conversations improved transparency. It became clearer to identify and solve problems. With the visibility, Darcor’s operations team was able to develop and implement real solutions in a timely manner. Darcor’s team is better aligned to move at the speed that is required to maintain high levels of customer satisfaction. The climate for the organization has improved and the culture has transformed to recognize and encourage active problem solvers in the operations environment.

Scott Smith is the President of High Performance Solutions and Consortium. He brings over 25 years of experience in lean thinking, continuous improvement facilitation, leadership development and organizational systems thinking.

Scott helps organizations realize the tremendous potential that exists in developing CI as a driving organizational philosophy and what is required to build a culture of excellence. Scott currently works with organizations in the manufacturing, service, support, not-for-profit, higher education and healthcare sectors. www.hpsinc.ca

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