by Bob Gregory
has been around since the end of the 1980s. At this point, books, articles, seminars and consultants abound. So everyone is lean by now, right? Not exactly.
It's no accident they call it lean. Like a new diet-and-exercise routine, the transformation to lean manufacturing can be difficult. Early enthusiasm can give way to backsliding and
inertia. It's true that lean manufacturing requires technical knowledge of systems and processes, but lean is not plug-and-play. Things are trickier than that because lean transformation is about
people. It's about how they change--or don't.
Just ask Jim Van Gieson. As director of continuous improvement, he drives lean change for Dana Corp.'s Automotive Aftermarket
Group, a global supplier of automotive products. After a dozen years of executing lean change, he knows all the technical ins and outs of implementation. But his one key question for those going
lean isn't technical: How can you get people to change their ways of thinking and change the way they do what they do?
The IMPACT approach to lean change
Van Gieson's very successful three-part answer is (1) choose people inside the organization who are passionate about the need for
change, (2) prepare them well and (3) make sure management is committed to supporting them all the way.
Once Van Gieson finds his lean candidates, they're trained (with a
little outside help) and given the tools to educate and motivate others (i.e., everyone in their facility). Training begins with a special week-long conference, a voluntary program that proves
its value by selling out time after time. Then comes more studying and hands-on practice leading lean workshops at their home facilities.
Dana's toolkit for these specialists
is a program called IMPACT (Improve Performance and Create Teamwork). The IMPACT materials are handbooks for implementing lean fundamentals--the Japanese concepts of 5-S and kaizen
--on the shop floor. 5-S consists of seiri (organization), seiton (neatness), seiso (cleaning), seiketsu (standardization) and shitsuke
(discipline) and is designed to eliminate mess. Kaizen
is designed to eliminate waste. User-friendly and easy-to-read, the materials guide IMPACT specialists and their teams through each step of the changes. Enlivened by clever cartoons and realistic dialogue, the manuals are also available in Spanish--another sign of Dana's commitment to include everyone in the process.
Along with the manuals come samples of the types of charts and reports useful for implementing and documenting lean changes. Everything is provided to make the process doable
in-house. Even the material is lean and to the point. For example, take the last question on the IMPACT workshop evaluation: "Did you learn? Yes/No."
Reports and follow-ups are
emphasized not to pile up paper but to show operators and managers that IMPACT has an effect on the powers that be. When upper management responds to these reports, the crucial third ingredient,
management commitment, comes into play. It's crucial for the transformation because it works as the real convincer. "They see we mean what we say, and we aren't going to go away and forget all
about it," Van Gieson says. "That brings credibility, and credibility brings participation."
Responsiveness makes this commitment visible. For example, the Dana style sets a
target of two suggestions per person per month with 85-percent participation and 85-percent implementation. The key word here is "implementation," because once people see there's a real response
to suggestions, they'll participate.
Lean help from partner CRMS
The Center for Robotics and Manufacturing Systems (CRMS) is a nonacademic unit of the College of Engineering at the University of Kentucky. Established in 1986, CRMS is
housed in its own 60,000 square-foot building containing state-of-the-art laboratories and offices, flexible manufacturing systems, automation equipment, high-speed
computer workstations, CAD/CAE/CAM systems, instructional TV classrooms, and TV satellite uplink and downlink equipment.
A not-for-profit technology
transfer center, CRMS provides manufacturing education, research and technical assistance. Especially popular with center clients is the lean manufacturing program, which
Leadership Institute--a week-long program, designed for senior executives, that features lectures, keynotes, experiential sessions, case studies and a manufacturing
Certification Program--a series of courses providing state-of-the-art training in technical, management and interpersonal skills necessary for implementing lean
Simulation--a full-day session in which participants manufacture a product on a simulated factory floor in several intensive rounds, gradually implementing lean principles
In fiscal year 1999, the lean program educated and inspired more than 3,000 participants from more than 300 different companies, including John
Deere, Cooper Tire and Rubber Co., Motorola Inc., Lockheed Martin Corp., Square D, Visteon and Dana Corp.
For more details, visit www.crms.engr.uky.edu or call (859) 257-6262.
The emphasis on internal response and
internal training is deliberate. It's not unheard of for consultants to come in, recommend changes, present a bill and leave. Temporary improvements happen, but soon enough the
old status quo is back. The deepest and strongest kind of change is internal and homegrown.
For that reason, it's a real compliment to the University of Kentucky's (UK) lean
manufacturing program that it has become a key element in the IMPACT conferences. Based in the Center for Robotics and Manufacturing Systems (CRMS) at UK, the
program offers short courses for operations managers and supervisors, a leadership institute for senior management, an international conference, technical support, a
user's group and other kinds of lean learning. A standout among these offerings is the one-day simulation exercise, a hands-on approach that takes participants to the shop
floor for a mind-changing comparison between traditional production and continuous flow in a pull system complete with built-in quality.
The simulation drops participants into a manufacturing layout where processes are grouped by function, the forecast system is out of sync with customer orders, and the
assemblers are told, "Just make parts; don't worry about quality." Naturally, on-time delivery, unit cost and other measures are poor in the first round, and participants are
thoroughly disgusted. But soon they're actively improving their process, with coaching in lean techniques from the facilitators. By the fourth round (the end of
the day), production has risen by a factor of five, unit cost has plummeted and skeptics have become believers.
"It's there for awareness, and it works well
for that," explains Roderick S. Heard, manager of the lean program at CRMS. "It gives the participants a real taste of what it's like to work in a lean environment." Heard,
who helped design the simulation, points to two factors that contribute to making it a mind-changer. One is using production-style components to make a functioning product
that can be tested. That makes it more real. The other is that manufacturing people aren't exactly shy and do the role-playing the
simulation calls for with a lot of zest and enthusiasm, which makes it more fun. "They play it to the hilt, with a lot of screaming, shouting and carrying on,"
Heard continues. "We encourage that."
What's crucial for Dana is the way the simulation makes lean believers out of
skeptical participants. "The personal learning experience is there," notes Van Gieson. "And the simulation really brings it home." Because it promotes change,
the simulation has become a key element in Dana's training.
It doesn't hurt that the simulation is fun. According to Van Gieson, it gets the
best evaluations of anything at the IMPACT conference--including the pub-crawl. And, as any teacher will confirm, students who have fun while they learn will really learn.
Results: leaner all the time
The outcomes of Dana's IMPACT program have been good. So far this year,
productivity is up 37 percent, throughput time has improved by 43 percent and in-process inventory has shrunk 55 percent. What's impressive here is that
these numbers are not first-year surges. They come from plants that have been implementing lean for years and are still stubbornly and steadily improving.
Take, for example, Dana Brake & Chassis in McHenry, Illinois, where 82 IMPACT workshops--Dana's version of the kaizen blitz--have been held. In one area, machining
of brake rotors was already cellular, but production wasn't high enough. There was talk of installing an extra machining cell, a hefty investment. However, the lean steering
committee at McHenry saw another way: setup reduction. A seven-member cross-functional team tackled the problem and made suggestions that ultimately reduced
set-up from six hours to one-and-one-half hours on average. As a result, the additional cell was no longer necessary, and a wasteful investment was avoided.
Dana's Lean Program
at a Glance
Since IMPACT began at DANA Automotive Aftermarket Group in 1994, the average improvements per workshop have included:
Productivity: +40 percent
Inventory: -60 percent
Process time: -65 percent
Floor space: -20 percent
But lean change at Dana isn't just about cost reduction. IMPACT aims at improvement in four other areas: quality, delivery, people and safety. What
happened at Dana's Quentin Hazell facility in Redditch, England, is a good example of lean as a customer service program. The problem at the plant was
waste from duplication, complicated by territorial thinking.
"Two departments were doing similar work," Van Gieson explains. They had
separate stores, separate personnel and separate supervision. Customers--and other functions in the plant--were understandably confused about to whom they
should go for what. Clearly, there were opportunities to reduce waste and improve service to the floor at the same time. The IMPACT workshop did the
trick, combining the two departments, eliminating redundant stores, freeing up floor space and reducing inventory by 30 percent. At the same time, 5-S
practices were initiated, as were visual management and total preventive maintenance. Not bad for four-and-a-half days of problem solving.
But Van Gieson cautions against the "success story" mindset. The success stories are useful, he concedes; they keep people interested and they help to
convince doubters that IMPACT is real "business stuff." "But these spikes aren't really what it's all about," he says. "IMPACT is the continual effort, the
steady increments without letting up--that's what really gets the evil spirits out of the process."
That's how the director sees it. How do the lean specialists in the trenches see it?
They, too, are focused on what can make people embrace change. For Kirk
King, who wears two hats (IMPACT coordinator and industrial engineer) at Dana's Preferred Technology Group in Columbia City, Indiana, the key
motivator is making something happen. He quickly saw that some people were doubtful that this new program would accomplish anything worthwhile. He
needed to establish a trust factor, and to do that, he needed to make changes immediately.
"It's a big mistake to try and do everything all at once," King says. "You end
up accomplishing nothing. 'What can we work on today that we can accomplish tomorrow?'--that's our motto around here." He likes to start his
teams on 5-S and line-balance changes because those are things a team can succeed with immediately. "People can see they have made a real positive
difference, and they like that," he explains. "Once that happens, we have our momentum."
For Tom Hancock, who leads continuous improvement at Dana's Epic
Technical Group, it was crucial to bring the "hardheads" aboard. That's his term for the negative types who go to a workshop to shake their heads and say, "It'll never work."
"I really like to see them in a workshop," he says. "Once they see the light, they are the strongest believers and really put their energy into it." Their
conversion brings others along and the changes start happening. Once they do, everyone can see the lean difference. "People who have been working here for
years tell me they like what is happening now: The place is cleaner, safer, more efficient," Hancock says.
Bart Iverson, continuous improvement facilitator at Dana's Brake Parts Inc., also in McHenry, Illinois, has a slightly different target group. "I like to get the
most frustrated people on the teams," he comments. "They are the most vocal and negative at first, but once you turn that into positive energy, it's great." To
make that work, it helps to have many kinds of teams and make sure everybody is on at least one. Another favorite target group: the modest ones
who don't realize their ideas are worthwhile. Iverson explains: "They'll see problems and tell me about them, and I'll say, 'How would you go about fixing
this?' and they'll have a good answer. Then I need to make sure they understand: That's an idea, so fill out the suggestion form and submit it. To
them, it's just something they thought of, no big deal. I have to encourage them to see that it could have value, to take it seriously."
Passion for change
All of these people-centered methods are clearly in line with the homegrown
approach to change Van Gieson advocates. And each of these change agents shares his zest for the process and the goal. "Seeing positive changes happen is
the greatest thing in the world," says Iverson.
"Why do I like it?" asks Hancock. "People with a lot of years at Dana tell me
nothing ever changed here, nothing--but now we're really doing something. You can't beat that."
When asked at the end of a hour's discussion about IMPACT if he's had
enough for a while, Van Gieson just laughs and says: "Hey, I love this stuff. It's not like people are happy to see you coming. Changes are tough. The
accounting people are going crazy--'what do you mean you're going to run that machine at 60 percent!' You have to have a passion for it." If you need
keywords for IMPACT, maybe those two will work: passion and change.
About the author
Bob Gregory is a staff writer for the CRMS newsletter "Advanced Manufacturing." He has a Ph.D. in English from the University of California, Irvine. E-mail him at email@example.com .