Companies need to speed up their adoption of "lean" practices in order to survive the global economic downturn, said one of the founders of the lean movement, Daniel T. Jones. Jones made this assertion during his keynote address at this year's Association for Manufacturing Excellence Conference in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. "The only people who will survive [the recession] will be those who accelerate their lean journey," said Jones, chairman of the Lean Academy in the United Kingdom. The Lean Production Philosophy, or Toyota Production System, considers the use of resources for anything other than the creation of customer value wasteful and seeks to eliminate unnecessary, nonvalue-adding steps from the production process.
Jones outlined a five-point action plan that companies should adopt.
1. Define the critical business problem facing your organization, such as excess inventory or slow market growth, and identify the performance gap you must close.
2. Select an individual to lead a project that will address this business problem and close the gap. "The role of this manager is to gain agreement on what are the right things to do," Jones said.
3. Create a "lean council" made up of key function managers and project leaders. "The council will initiate cross-functional projects across the organization, coordinate those efforts, and resolve conflict," the expert explained.
4. Make sure that the project considers not just current products but also future ones.
5. Use the improvement project to teach workers the lean philosophy. "It's a way to teach line managers how to diagnose and solve problems," Jones said.