The Most Common Mistakes Companies Make in The Implementation of Lean Manufacturing

Toyota’s success with implementing lean manufacturing has inspired companies across the world to adopt this innovative process. Companies that wish to cut down on waste and improve quality can start following lean manufacturing in their production processes.

It is important that the implementation happens smoothly without which the desired results cannot be achieved. For this to be done, companies need to know about the common mistakes committed during implementation. Knowing about these mistakes ensures that they would not be repeated.

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Mistake in Lean Manufacturing Implementation

1. Lack of support from leadership

The support and involvement of the leadership or top management of the company is essential for the successful implementation of lean manufacturing. The implementation of process improvements will not be effective unless the top management actively involve themselves. They need to guide and inspire the organization. Improvement needs to start from the top-level so that is adopted easily.

2. Employees not being educated

Much before the implementation starts, employees need to be properly educated about lean manufacturing. This includes creating awareness and making people understand how to implement the practices. It is important that employees be made aware of the benefits they get by implementing lean manufacturing. Without this step, the implementation is bound to be faulty.

3. Lack of a proper strategy

Any implementation calls for proper planning and strategizing. If lean manufacturing has to be implemented, then the company needs to have a strategy in place.

The strategy must provide a clear roadmap for the implementation with clear timelines. Along with deciding timelines, responsibilities need to be mapped out. The strategy must also have a plan B for implementation. Problems during implementation need to be anticipated and plans made to address them. Without this, the implementation process is likely to face obstacles.

4. Focusing only on cost cutting

Lean manufacturing will have a definite and positive impact on product quality and waste reduction. This would be lead to cost cutting, which can ultimately translate to improved profitability. But companies make the mistake of focusing only on cost cutting.

Many benefits of lean manufacturing are not apparent immediately. It takes time for the goals to be achieved. If the company’s focus is only on cost cutting, then they could be disappointed in the short run. This can lead to lack of interest and failure of implementation. This is a mistake that must be avoided.

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5. Focusing on tools instead of principles

Lean manufacturing revolves around certain core principles. The company needs to understand these principles and ensure the implementation aims to achieve these principles.

There are many tools in the implementation of lean manufacturing like 5S, Kaizen, etc. These tools are the means to the implementation and not the end. Too much of focus on the tools may lead to a superficial implementation where the principles are forgotten. The aim of the tools should be to help in problem solving. For example, excess focus on 5S can lead to problems being hidden due to cleaning and arranging. This can cause other problems later.

6. Fear of failure

One of the roadblocks in the implementation of lean manufacturing is the fear of failure. The fear of failing makes many managers hesitate to implement strategies. What needs to be known is that in lean, failure is truly the stepping stone to success. Only when mistakes happen, there is opportunity for corrective action and improvement.

Giving up fear of committing mistakes is important for smooth implementation.

7. Relying too much on experts

Some companies set up a lean office comprising experts to manage the entire implementation. This could be a problem since it leads to over-reliance on a few people. For lean to succeed, every single person needs to be involved.

The strategy must focus on co-opting everyone in the process and not depending on a few people to manage the implementation.

8. Copying from others

A big mistake companies make is copying from others. Because company X followed a certain strategy, it doesn’t mean this strategy will work for everyone. Each company is distinct and has its own culture and own set of problems.

A one size fits all approach will not work. The implementation strategy needs to be unique for each company.