Sustain the Gain (Part 2)


We joined our friend, John, who is a young Production Manager in part one of Sustain the Gain.  John is expecting significant savings thanks to a Kaizen with his team but the results just are not there.  Sound familiar?  What could have gone wrong?

  1. John’s team could have jumped to a false conclusion. We discussed this in more detail last time in part one.  Teams must get to the true root cause to achieve sustainable improvements. Use the 5 Why method.
  2. Poor communication is a common issue that could easily derail the efforts of this team.  John’s team consisted of 1st Shift leaders, support, and operators.  John relied on operators to communicate the new procedures, which went well when 2nd shift arrived.  Unfortunately for John’s team, 2nd Shift had one heck of a night and forgot to mention the new best practice to 3rd Shift.  Most manufacturing plants have multiple shifts, absenteeism, vacations, as well as new hires and other operators in training.  Many plants even have multiple languages and cultures.  Is it any wonder that communication issues plague so many plants in the United States today?  Formal meetings, e-mails, and written directions like Standard Operating Procedures (SOP’s) are all means of communication. However these forms are not enough. It is the Team Leader’s responsibility to ensure that everyone affected by the improvements has a thorough understanding of the new procedures and changes. In short, the Team Leader needs not only to communicate, he or she needs to verify if team members have understood and are willing to use the new process or procedure. This check for understanding is best accomplished when the Team Leader asks the operators to describe changes in a one-on-one conversation at the workstation.  Without this step, John’s team would be likely to be victims of miscommunication.  Team Leaders must follow-up to check for understanding and ensure proper implementation.
  3. The absence of standardized tasks for any reason is likely to impede the improvement process. Toyota’s Lean Management Principles and Training Within Industry both require using standardized tasks and visual controls as the foundation for Continuous Improvement.  It is all too easy in today’s hurried environment for leaders like John to rely on word of mouth or other forms of communication that fall short of true standardized tasks in the form of SOP’s, One-Point Lessons and operator aids.  An operator aid can be as simple as a laminated card listing the standard sequence of adjusting the labeler. A more active operator aid may be a bell, buzzer or light that alerts upstream operators that something is wrong on the line.  Leaders and organizations must have standardized tasks as the foundation for Continuous Improvement.  Visual and auditory aids help drive standard work deep into the culture.

To be continued…

Until then,
Dr. Glen Miller & Christian Paulsen
Lean Leadership


The preceding is the second of a three part series of posts on Sustaining the Gain when implementing Lean improvements.  It is co-authored by Dr. Glen Miller and Christian Paulsen and originally posted at  Part 1 can be seen here.  Go here to see part 3.

Please leave a comment below if you liked this article. You can also connect on LinkedIn, follow me on Twitter, subscribe via e-mail (right side bar), retweet, digg, or stumble this article.  You can check out my Facebook page and continue the discussion there as well.  Your feedback is appreciated.

About Christian Paulsen

Christian Paulsen is an Executive Consultant with 20 years of Lean Manufacturing. Chris adds value to organizations by driving process improvement and bottom line savings. Chris intends to help others by sharing the lessons learned after a quarter century of operational leadership, marriage, parenting, and even longer as a Cubs fan. Your comments on this blog are welcome. You can also connect with Chris via LinnkedIn, Twitter, and Facebook in the right sidebar. Chris welcomes your comments. Christian's professional services are available by contacting him through LinkedIn (right side bar)
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