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FLEXO Magazine : September 2009
54 FLEXO SEPTEMBER 2009 www.flexography.org PLANTS & PROCESSES Starting Your Lean Journey The Best Way to Get Going is to Just Go By Bill Hanover An old proverb states that the journey of 1,000 miles begins with a single step. This is true of any company that wants to get leaner. The most critical move a company can make toward Lean manufacturing is to make a move at all. Lean, at its very core, is about action and involve- ment. Still, many companies struggle to take that first step. This article is intended to help you take those first steps with confidence. You can get there from here! STEP 1. THE LEAN MINDSET To be Lean in your operation, you have to think in a manner conducive to Lean manufacturing. This takes root in two ways. The first is that you need to have a collaborative mindset. Everyone in your plant must feel that he/she is in this together. Employees at all levels should feel like they are owners of the company, and take responsibility as though they were. It can't just be the bosses pushing this effort. This takes a while to fully achieve, but personal buy-in will come as people learn and "do" Lean. The goal is to develop your people internally so that they become Lean experts/practitioners. That doesn't mean I'm against the idea of seeking outside help. Quite the opposite, as a consultant can make the process faster and easier and get your people up to speed very quickly. Think of it like a dentist: If you have a toothache, you don't just start reading a manual and buy the tools to fix your tooth; you hire an expert to take care of it. Unlike using a dentist, however, the needed skills are transferred to your staff so your people can take care of the next toothache, and the one after that, and so on. The second mental aspect of Lean is the belief that you can get Lean. There are still a lot of companies that see this as something only for the automotive industry. It's not. It works in every industry. A friend of mine recently wrote a book on Lean healthcare. Every printing facility I have ever been in has said it can't be done. In liter- ally dozens of business and industries we hear, "Yeah, Lean may work in X indus- try, but we're different." We heard it in numerous steel manufacturing plants, machining, corrugated box plants, pump manu- facturers, aerospace, food production; you name it. It worked in all of these industries without fail. When it comes down to figuring out how to change or why not to change, most people do the latter. Any company can get leaner, but they have to want to. Yeah, that sounds a lot like the old how- many- Lean Thinking • Everyone in your plant must feel that he/she is in this together. • Very often, the personnel on the shop ﬂoor know what’s going on better than the bosses upstairs. • Each department must treat the subsequent department like a customer. Find out what they want and need. • People will do so much for a handshake and a thank you. • Give people the tools they need to accomplish something. Is this a $300,000 broom? It could be if five people have to share it. Consider the cost of lost uptime related to not having a tool before considering the cost of the tool itself.