Lean manufacturing facility

Table of contents: The Kazakh-American Free University Academic Journal №10 - 2018

Young Brian, Kazakh-American Free University, Kazakhstan
Kaigorodtsev Alexandr, Amanzholov East Kazakhstan state University, Kazakhstan

The idea of lean for a business in manufacturing has been around for a while. The premise is to - do more with less, to do work better, and to do it faster. Because, the business that is competing against you is trying to figure out the same thing and will put you out of business, if you don’t figure out to incorporate lean first.

There is difficulty in understanding the theory. To be lean means to do something faster. But if you make something faster, it generally has less quality because you are making more of something in less time. The time it took to make one quality product, you now need to make ten. Because your competition can do five products in the same time. But if you make ten, you may then have to work overtime. But in a lean operation, overtime, if possible, is not allowed.

Take a look at diagram #1 below, and you can see the cycle of lean manufacturing and how each arrow points to how it affects the other categories.

Diagram 1. The Cycle of Lean manufacturing

If we “do more with less” is the process faster, is the quality better? If we are doing quality work, can we do it faster, can we do it with fewer steps or tools? Such is the challenge for a lean manufacturing facility.

There are many authors now that have contributed to the development, and explanation of the lean business strategy. The foundational contributor is W. Edwards Deming [1]. He wrote the book Out of the Crisis, and within its pages are his thoughts on transforming the American system of business manufacturing. It is the techniques of understanding and using statistics that brought the Japanese manufacturing sector back to life after being destroyed during World War Two. The result being, they became a world power in manufacturing (see Chain Reaction diagram #2).

Diagram 2. The Deming Chain Reaction [1]

Shigeo Shingo [2] who wrote, Zero Quality Control: Source Inspection and the Poka-Yoke System, under the direction of Taiichi Ohno, who wrote the Toyota Production System, they both expanded the development of lean manufacturing. With Shigeo Shingo’s poka-yoke (mistake proofing) and Taiichi Ohno’s, 7 Areas of Waste and the 5’s System [3, p. 15, 348] (see diagrams #’s 3, 4) the lean system began to take a strong footing in manufacturing:

Diagram 3. Seven areas of Waste

Note – The terminology in the diagram is proposed by Brian Young [4]

Diagram 4. The 5s System

These diagrams are pointing out that the workplace needs to be organized, whether it is on the shop floor, or your direct work area. You will notice that in the diagram of the 5s, the “s” stands for the Japanese word. All the Japanese words begin with an “s”. There is a close translation in English – which may or may not begin with an “s” [4]. It should be pointed out that there is another category of the 5s, because Americans have added a sixth box for “safety”. So, in actuality it should be called 6s [5].

Other authors have contributed to the development of the lean system by organizing the data from other authors. Mary Walton [6] consolidated the various ideas and put them in a book that makes it easier to teach teams the ideas of lean. And along those lines, there is a book called The Goldmine [7], that puts the lean concepts in a story form. It is a good idea to have it in a story form, because it seems that the modern concept of reading a book, is reduced to a comic book. This method can hold the interest of the younger generation (and old) and within it gives the concepts of lean. The main character of the book is a retired lean expert. He is a rather gruff individual that seems to be burned out from trying to restructure a system of manufacturing in the past and is reluctant to try again. One interesting illustration in the Goldmine book is to use the model of yacht racing. A high performing team, focused and pursuing the same goal to win. The idea is if we can get our manufacturing teams to perform as they do for yacht racing – we will win.

The idea of teamwork is strong in the lean system. Peter R. Scholtes, who wrote the book, The Team Handbook; How to Use Teams to Improve Quality. He points out that the employee on the line is the key to figuring out the problems of manufacturing. But that it will be work to educate them on the new system. [8].

Teams can continue to learn and break down the problems of the production system by applying problem solving techniques. These can range from applying John Shook’s idea of using the A3 format which helps you standardize a process of discovery and identify the problem [9, p. 1]. The A3 format title I always thought was confusing because I thought the name had a more significant meaning. As it turns out, it is in reference to the paper size used.

The Scrum method, developed by Jeff Sutherland, is another way to identify problems, if the A3 method doesn’t work for you. Scrum comes from a term that rugby players do while on the field. The premise is that when the rugby players are in a scrum, they are extremely focused, they are unified and work together to score a goal [10, p.8].

The idea for a business team is to be like the rugby players and identify the problem, then do a scrum, be focused on the solution by working together to solve it. Then, meet every two weeks to see what progress there has been to accomplish a solution. If there is no solution, identify and remove the barriers that hinder positive results. This method is very similar to the business strategy that Ken Iverson, president of Nucor, a steel manufacturing facility employed. He stressed that the workers were the ones to make the decisions and solve the problems [11].

In 30 years, Nucor, went from a 3-million-dollar company to a 3.5-billion-dollar company [12].

The idea of having the workers closest to the work, make important decisions is a novel idea. But it takes confident CEO who understands his teams, the ability to allow this method of decision making. Charles Duhigg, in the book, Faster Smarter Better, tells of how the FBI went in this direction because the agent on the ground needed to get a quicker response from a slow bureaucratic hierarchy, if there was a drug deal taking place and quick action was needed, the agent on the ground, closest to the situation made the decision [13, p.162].

The idea of turning over decisions to teams, takes trust. But as the team continues developing and improving the process, trust is gained. This system of entrusting the team to make decisions helps in the new lean business strategy – less of a hierarchy means quicker decisions can be made. Kimball Fisher, who wrote Leading Self-Directed Work Teams; A Guide to Developing New Team Leadership Skills, points out in his book, that because of the new dynamic of treating employees equally, this eliminates the command and control atmosphere [14, p. 11].

Once the teams are working together and solving problems. Making solutions and continue eliminating waste, Womack and Jones, write in their book, Lean Thinking; Banish Waste and Create Wealth in Your Corporation, that they need to understand the flow of the work from start to finish. This is called the value stream. The employee needs to recognize the part of the process that brings value to the product. Anything else is waste. He begins to recognize the flow of the product, making sure there are no hindrances – this too is waste. And once it is all accomplished and everything is running smoothly, then you have perfection [15, p. 15-26]. Which can only be in theory because, continuous improvement implies, lack of perfection.

Incorporating Six Sigma into the team dynamic is another level of lean that is not for the faint of heart. This system starts looking deeper into the causes and effects of a manufacturing facility. It takes skilled individual to gather the appropriate information that is needed to pinpoint where improvement can occur [16].

It is a system that “…provides leaders with the strategy, methods, and tools for changing their organizations – a key leadership skill that heretofore has been missing from leadership development” [17].

The Six Sigma relies on data. That data needs to be recorded and collected, generally by those on the line, then given to the Six Sigma team. The weakness of this system is that it starts to separate the line workers from the problems that the executive level identifies. When decisions are being made, for instance, to purchase an expensive piece of equipment that is intended to solve the problem, are the line workers brought into the decision-making process? An effort should be made to bring the line workers into the decision making process.

Henry Ford is regarded as improving the way automobiles were made by incorporating the assembly line. But he was also an innovator on understanding waste, what Taiichi Ohno points out in his methods. Read the following quote, with a new view of what waste is and see if you can see what Ford was talking about:

“The men do not leave their work to get tools – new tools are brought to them, but they do not often need new tools, and machines do not often break down, for there is continuous cleaning and repair work on every bit of machinery in the place” [18, p. 92].

Did you notice that in the phrase: “The men do not leave their work to get tools”, this implies that waste occurred when workers needed tools at a certain time, and would walk off the job in search of the tools they needed. How was this waste overcome, or corrected? This was corrected by having the tools brought to them. Are there situations, where you work, that supplies are regularly needed? Do the workers leave their position to go get the needed supply? You may want to have someone come by at specified times to see what the workers need to do their job. This will reduce a waste. Here is another phrase to look at: “there is continuous cleaning and repair work on every bit of machinery in the place”. What resulted when this procedure of maintenance was done? The machinery ran smoothly with few break downs. This shows that when equipment is maintained correctly, there is less down time for repairs – less waste.

The idea for incorporating lean principles, is really nothing new [19]. What is new is making it a business strategy to be a better competitor that produces a better product, in a shorter period of time, and to make more of the product. Any process can incorporate lean principles.

For a business to seriously look at incorporating lean principles as a business strategy, they need to start by looking at Deming’s 14 points:

1. Create a constancy of purpose for improvement of product and service.

2. Adopt the new philosophy.

3. Cease dependence on mass inspection.

4. End the practice of awarding business on price tag alone.

5. Improve constantly and forever the system of production and service.

6. Institute training.

7. Institute leadership.

8. Drive out fear.

9. Break down barriers between staff areas.

10. Eliminate slogans, exhortations, and targets for the workforce.

11. Eliminate numerical quotas.

12. Remove barriers to pride of workmanship.

13. Institute a vigorous program of education and retraining.

14. Take action to accomplish the transformation [6, p. 35-36].

When looking at point one, we see that in order for a business to succeed at establishing a new strategy, the company as a whole, needs to adopt a “constancy of purpose”. Everyone from the CEO, on down to the line worker need to have the same drive and purpose for improvement. Along those lines, point 2 tells us that the company needs to adopt a new philosophy. They need to establish from the beginning a whole new way of looking at things and express that philosophy to everyone in the company.

A company that is looking at lean for improvement, not only needs to look at Deming’s 14 Points, but also needs to review and avoid, what Deming calls: 7 Deadly Diseases:

1. Lack of constancy of purpose.

2. Emphasis on short-term profits.

3. Evaluation of performance, merit rating, or annual review.

4. Mobility of top management.

5. Running a company on visible figures alone (“counting the money”).

6. Excessive medical costs.

7. Excessive costs of warranty, fueled by lawyers that work on contingency fees [6, p. 35-36].

These diseases will destroy whatever effort is put into place to correct the problems the company has. Not having a “constancy of purpose” will stifle the work improvements that are needed for the business to turn to lean principles. It will always be struggle.


1. Deming, W. Edwards. Out of the Crisis. Published by Massachusetts Institute of Technology. 1986. p. 3.

2. Shingo, Shigeo, Zero Quality Control: Source Inspection and the Poka-Yoke System. Productivity Press, Cambridge, Mass. 1985.

3. Womack, James P. and Jones, Daniel T. Lean Thinking; Banish Waste and Create Wealth in Your Corporation. Free Press, New York, NY. 2003.

4. Young, Brian “Lean Thinking; Environmental Pollution” published by Co-Serve International; International Scientific and practical Conference Partnership in Education and Science. October 26-27, 2012. ISBN 978-0-9847161-5-9. The Kazakh-American Free University, Ust-Kamenogorsk, Kazakhstan, 2012.

5. Lean and Environment Training Module 5 - 6S (5S+Safety) - EPA https: // www. epa. gov/sites/production/files/2015-06/ documents/module_5_6s.pdf.

6. Walton, Mary. The Deming Management Method. Putnam Pub. Group. 1986. p. 35-36

7. Ballé, Freddy & Ballé, Michael. The Goldmine; a novel of lean turnaround. Pub. Lean Enterprise Institute. 2005.

8. Scholtes, Peter R. The Team Handbook; How to Use Teams to Improve Quality. Joiner Associates Inc. 1988. p. 2-46.

9. Shook, John. Managing to Learn. The Lean Enterprise Institute. 2008, p. 3.

10. Sutherland, Jeff. Scrum; The Art of Doing twice the Work in Half the Time. Crown Business, Crown Publishing. 2014.

11. Iverson, Kenneth. Plain Talk; Lessons from a Business Maverick. Published by John Wiley and Sons. 1998.

12. Rodengen, Jeffery L. The Legend of Nucor Corporation. Write Stuff Enterprises, Inc. Pub. 1997.

13. Duhigg, Charles. Smarter Faster Better. Random House, NY. 2016, p. 162.

14. Fisher, Kimball. Leading Self-Directed Work Teams; A Guide to Developing New Team Leadership Skills. McGraw-Hill Pub. 2000. p. 11

15. Womack, James P. and Jones, Daniel T. Lean Thinking; Banish Waste and Create Wealth in Your Corporation. Free Press, New York, NY. 2003.

16. Kukadia, Nadia. Basic Introduction to Process Improvement Tools: Lean and Six Sigma. Retrieved from: https:// www. slideshare.net/nkukadia/in-a-nutshell - lean-and-six-sigma-explained.

17. Snee, Ronald D. PhD. The Six Sigma Approach to Improvement and Organizational Change. Change Handbook. Berrett-Koehler Publishers, Inc., San Francisco. 2007. p. 468.

18. Ford, Henry. Today and Tomorrow. CRC Press. Boca Raton, FL. 2003, p. 92.

19. A Brief History of Lean, Strategos. Retrieved from: http:// www. strategosinc. com/ just_in_time.htm.

Table of contents: The Kazakh-American Free University Academic Journal №10 - 2018

About journal
About KAFU

   © 2022 - KAFU Academic Journal