Lean Isn’t Just for Production
Lean Isn’t Just for Production
Component manufacturers (CMs) regularly receive calls from customers citing issues with trusses sagging. After going out to the jobsite and running a string line from one end of the truss to the other, they typically find the issue had nothing to do with the trusses. When comparing the floor to a laser level, the typical cause of the customer’s call can be found in the concrete. If the foundation isn’t right, everything sitting on top of it is going to be wrong as well.
This concept is similar when applied to our companies. While focusing on lean, we have a tendency of focusing solely on production. Yet production is just like the trusses sitting on top of a poor foundation, it can’t really be fixed if the underlying concrete is off. Lean shouldn’t just happen in the shop, and it shouldn’t necessarily start with process improvement. Most times, lean should start with a change in the company’s foundation—its culture—and focus on getting everyone to think about it differently.
Victor Sanchez is the director of operations and continuous improvement for Trussway. He’s been in the components industry for five years, but he’s been practicing Lean 6 Sigma for 18 years in other industries. Victor states, “People usually think of improving process and streamlining when they think of Lean 6 Sigma. The part that people usually don’t think about is the personnel side that plays a big part in lean.”
“Waste is all around us and yet we don’t see it,” Victor explains. “Think of how many times you find yourself doing any of the following actions ‘asking questions, answering questions, wandering, wondering, guessing.’ Every time we do these actions and many others like them we lose speed. All the information transferred from one person to the next needs to be 100 percent complete and accurate. It typically isn’t operating that way. Yet when you go to fix it, your first reaction is to focus on the people, when really we should focus on the processes people are using.”
How do we fix these foundational issues that can waste so much time every day? Victor tells us that “you need an owner and/or leaders who understand improvements do not come for free. There needs to be dedicated time set aside each day for managers and employees (about 33 percent of the company) to be trained on Lean 6 Sigma and then to implement it by starting to work on improving processes and the lean company culture.”
Victor adds that at least 33 percent of the company needs to be trained and invested in the lean way of life, and that this will snowball into another 33 percent of the company wanting to help and be a part of the positive and productive change. “There are three keys to making lean work, companywide,” he explains. “One, you need all of your leaders invested. This means the CEO down to every manager. Two, you must allow your employees to implement their ideas, let them fail, and try again. It is very important to allow managers to implement their ideas or the ideas of the employees who work for them.”
“People are most invested when it is their idea because they want to make it work. When they fail, and they will, they will learn from the process they put in place and the new process they come up with will take that failure into account,” says Victor. “Three, continuous improvement is a must. Lean isn’t something you do once and it fixes everything. Lean is about constantly assessing, learning, improving, and growing. It is like taking a shower. Nobody says taking a shower is useless because they tried it once and it worked for a few days, but then after that stunk again. We must shower every day and we must work on lean every day.”
If lean concepts are going to be truly successful, Victor says they need to be applied to the company’s foundation first. Once it takes hold there, you can build upon those concepts in all other departments. Victor’s last and most important point is that lean should be a consistent focus that is worked on every day. “If we aren’t growing and improving each day, we are falling behind,” he says.