Lean Starts by Listening & Learning


Lean Starts by Listening & Learning

Do you ask the right questions to get the best productivity?

“Lean is a tool that, when it works correctly, you can benefit from. However, you need to make sure your organization is ready for it and you are actively doing things to improve the culture within the organization,” says Victor Sanchez, corporate QC manager for Trussway Industries.

Whether it’s taking too much time, seems too difficult, or there’s a lack of interest, many companies struggle with developing and maintaining a workplace culture focused on continuous improvement. 

Victor has received his Lean Six Sigma Black Belt Certification and has been sharing his experiences with SBCA members on how to improve internal culture to maximize efficiencies and output. He has shared his insights with the Truss Manufacturers Association of Texas (TMAT) and, more recently, in a webinar with SBCA members across the country. 

“If you want to change your culture, a leader has a primary responsibility to actively engage in activities that will change the organization in the way that you want,” he says. 

To do this, he recommends four key concepts: 

  1. Create an atmosphere where people feel safe and are open to coaching.
  2. Introduce tools and methods for coaching.
  3. Ask the right questions.
  4. Start with the right concepts.

To create a safe and open atmosphere, Victor says CMs need to make sure their employees know that their managers are willing to talk about in-plant challenges. Those efforts should encourage employees to speak openly with their managers about their own mistakes, as well as ideas they may have to improve the company. 

To coach employees to open up and be part of the continuous improvement structure, Victor uses the six-legged coaching spider concept, which he recommends CMs use twice a month. When implemented, the concept gives employees the opportunity to think about what they are doing and why they are doing it. It also helps develop new goals and outcomes as well as provide a valuable opportunity to have employees look at their work ahead and share additional insights. 

“It leaves a lot up to them to decide the new improvements and approaches they are willing to try,” Victor explains. 

To illicit the best information from employees, he stresses how important it is to make sure managers are asking the right questions. When asked the right questions, employees will provide better information for managers to use as part of their continuous improvement journey. 

  1. What is your goal? 
  2. How are you performing versus your goal? 
  3. What obstacles do you think are preventing you from meeting your goal and which one are you addressing now?
  4. What is your next step and what do you expect?
  5. When can we go and see what we have learned from taking that step? 

The last element Victor touches on is making sure everyone in the company starts with the right concepts. Employees should understand the “Eight Wastes” addressed by lean manufacturing (see sidebar), as well as use the same terminology and have visuals that aid in the overall process. 

Victor recognizes that implementing lean concepts into a plant is a large, up-front investment that requires a lot of time. But, he says, it really pays off in the long run. 

“It is unrealistic to expect it in a short term; it will take several interactions,” he says. “Start slow and once you gain ground, you gain speed and start collecting many of the benefits.”

To hear more from Victor and other lean experts in the industry, watch the three-part SBCA webinar series, “Making Lean Work for You,” at sbcindustry.com/webinar

About the Author: TJ Jerke provides opportunities for members to read about what others throughout SBCA are doing to advance component manufacturing.