By Jason Piatt Article
Lean is About People, Not Tools
“If we consider the position of a typical American plant manager, the problem-statement has historically been “keep hitting your numbers, make sure the plant has plenty of work in the backlog, and avoid too many problems with the union and vendors.” This perspective typically forces the plant manager to stay in his or her office, focus on “the numbers,” run large batches of product to gain efficiency, etcetera.
Utilizing TPS, the problems are redefined entirely. The new goals are “produce only items that have been ordered by a customer, never let plant personnel face a problem alone, never skip past a problem in the plant, and continually improve the plant’s processes.” The work of the plant manager will now dramatically change. In order to solve the problems in the TPS perspective, the plant manager must spend most of his or her time on the shop floor understanding the intimate details of the plant’s operation and working with teams to be more precise and to improve the processes with which they interact.
So what’s the answer? Knowing that long before rolling out lean tools in our operations, we must first teach our people to see the operation through lean eyes. This is best achieved through respect for people. In a respectful way, we teach the team within our operations to see waste without feeling wasteful. We show that we are using lean to improve the processes and to ultimately increase success on an organizational and personal level — never to identify opportunities for headcount reduction.”