May 18, 2024

Corporate Nex Hub

Bringing business progress

5 Lean Management Strategies To Implement This Year

5 min read

Vice President of Sales at The Raymond Corporation, overseeing sales for Raymond’s material handling products and intralogistics solutions.

The term “lean management” is often misunderstood. Lean isn’t just for manufacturing companies alone. Any business or industry can leverage lean management to improve efficiency and output. By utilizing this proven process, we have seen firsthand success in visualizing improvements, rooting out inefficiencies and continuously making improvements to our operation.

Are you ready to put lean management to work for your company?

Understanding The Concept

To begin, let’s detail what lean management is and how it can support your organization in developing your associates.

In its simplest form, lean management is about creating problem-solvers who help teams look for and implement continuous improvements that are in the best interests of the company. From the manufacturing floor to cloud-based software and everything in between, lean management is a long-term operational discipline that systematically engages associates to find workplace improvements, which leads to efficiency and quality. This helps leaders better monitor key performance indicators (KPIs), optimize production lines and make incremental progress forward.

With lean management processes, companies can improve their workflows, saving them time and money. Plus, the processes establish a more collaborative culture.

In this article, I’ll share some strategic approaches that my team has used with success to help get your program off the ground. To accomplish this, focus must be put on a few core values throughout an operation.

Strategy 1: Cultivate a culture dedicated to continuous improvement.

Here are some ways to help achieve this.

Practice “go and see.”

Most lean concepts (like the ones we follow at The Raymond Corporation) originate from the Toyota Production System, and this one is no different. Also known as genchi genbutsu, a go-and-see is “the Japanese principle of going to and directly observing a location and its conditions in order to understand and solve any problems faster and more effectively.” By utilizing this practice, we can monitor the evolution of a location and provide suggestions based on what we observe. This allows us to give recommendations based on the situation rather than a one-size-fits-all approach, which does not always prove successful.

Challenge your operations.

Look to expose weaknesses in the system in which your business operates. Where do you see room for improvement? By exposing and concentrating on weaknesses within the business, we have been better able to target these areas and make improvements in a more efficient manner, leading to proven results.

Consider kaizen.

Kaizen refers to making small, consistent improvements to your system. This approach helps those in your organization offer ideas on improving the business, regardless of their role. When something is proven to be successful, it should be implemented throughout the operation. We’ve found that kaizen also boosts employee engagement and the feeling of ownership and fulfillment in making an impact in their daily work.

Our employees are encouraged to submit improved process ideas that they believe will better help them perform a task. That kaizen may then be approved by a manager and implemented by the team. These small improvements build over time to result in big changes.

Be respectful.

It’s important to practice respect and recognize those doing the work as the experts. These team members offer firsthand insight into their respective roles that are instrumental in helping to promote change within the organization. Supporting individuals and the value they each provide to your business can help achieve a culture of continuous improvement.

Strategy 2: Refine workflows.

Brainstorm with employees throughout your organization to teach them how to identify wastes in their processes, whether in time or materials. Together, come up with solutions to address those wastes by submitting improvement suggestions to management. Leverage data to help with this.

By pinpointing inefficiencies, a few benefits can be obtained, like greater efficiency, reduced waste and improved environmental and cost sustainability efforts. Using kaizen is a great example within our own company of how this process plays out on a continuous basis.

Strategy 3: Enlist a proven process for measuring progress.

Visualization, organization and standardization can all be used to measure progress. Each aspect will work in different ways to find the best solution and the right process for each specific application and organization. A one-size-fits-all method is not always the best option.

If a process is not working as originally intended, utilize “plan, do, check, act” (PDCA) to visualize where specific pain points are and make changes that address the issues. Until the issues are pointed out, it is impossible to make the necessary adjustments.

Strategy 4: Seek out opportunities for optimization.

To meet the demands of today, optimization is crucial. Look to areas of opportunity to create space for product, increase workforce productivity, leverage data for suitable tasks and better the customer experience. Work with your team to poke holes in processes. Doing so will drive cost savings that can be better utilized throughout your organization.

Although a company’s strength may be focusing on defect reduction, it may not be as strong at eliminating disruptions. By changing its mindset, the company will see that disruption is not necessarily a defect but may be a constraint.

Strategy 5: Be intentional.

Avoid arbitrary changes, such as changing a warehouse layout, without any clear rationale so that the change does not result in disruptions to workflow and added confusion. Instead, make systematic changes, such as optimizing a warehouse’s material handling process by introducing revised traffic patterns that reduce travel time and minimize congestion or by investing in technology that streamlines tasks. These systematic changes move the needle and gather data and facts to drive these improvements.

After implementing changes, it’s important to not blindly forge ahead. Make sure people know why changes were made and why the changes were effective or not. Check to understand the effect of that change on both people and processes to ensure improvement. Following these steps in the implementation of lean management helps your facility get to the all-important measurement and improvement point.

Continuous improvement is just that—a continuous, impactful journey. It’s one that will help your organization achieve ultimate efficiencies now and as your company excels in the future.

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