All too often in manufacturing a lot of attention is paid to ad hoc problem solving.
However, there isn’t necessarily equal focus on the needs of “lean daily management.”
For those of you not steeped in the history of all things lean, let’s start with a definition from the Lean Enterprise Institute. Here’s their description of the differences between ad hoc problem solving and lean daily management.
Lean organizations depend on developing the problem solving capabilities of the entire workforce […]. While there is still a need for deep expertise in specialty departments, the emphasis is on the performance of the entire value stream and the customer which it serves. Leadership in this type of organization is less focused on being the problem solver and more focused on building the problem solving muscle of the workforce. While traditional organizations delegate problem solving within 10-20% of the workforce, lean organizations endeavor to have the entire organization actively engaged in problem solving.
I like that way of thinking about the challenge. It speaks to me of the power of visualization and analysis when they are integral parts of a workflow. Manufacturing requires consistency achieved through well-defined processes orchestrated into workflows and supported by information. In any plant, for any unit operation, there are daily tasks to accomplish. Those tasks need to be defined and standardized. Who owns the task? Is there a defined standard? Do we know the critical inputs and outputs (not the folklore versions)? Do we have a plan for monitoring? Who’s empowered to improve it? What decisions can be automated? These tasks need to be supported with decision-ready data, analysis and information sharing.
We need to know the critical things that must be monitored, responded to and continuously improved – but we also need to understand what to ignore. It’s surprising to see how many organizations run manufacturing without the discipline of defined procedures. If you’re one of those organizations, and if you are entirely happy with current performance, then no worries. If you have issues with differentiation, quality, rate of innovation or throughput take a look at your Lean Daily Management practices. My answer to the question of reaching operational excellence through better problem solving is: no. It takes more than ad hoc problem solving to achieve high levels of operational excellence; it also takes a well-executed daily management process and workflow.
For more information, be sure to watch our new video on “Lean Daily Management”