Lean Manufacturing

A 20-year time-tried standard which still generates results…or not!

The vast majority of industries have launched Lean initiatives. Lean Manufacturing is now a standard approach that has grown over the years through its association with other methods, such as Six Sigma. However, in the long term, these initiatives do not always produce the desired results. Let us examine the key factors for success in Lean projects.

To reform a manufacturing process, it is necessary to identify the causes of efficiency loss and then employ certain tools to resolve the problem.

There are a number of potential ways to resolve efficiency loss. They depend on the type of process, the nature of the failures identified, the action already taken, and, more generally, the context:

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  • For manufacturing industries (automotive, aeronautical, domestic appliances, etc.), this involves introducing a continuous flow between several production sequences, leveling and station balancing, optimized assembly line supply, and reproducible planning
  • For process industries (chemical, oil and gas, steel, and paper industries, etc.), this  involves Total Productive Maintenance (TPM), bottle-neck management based on the Theory of Constraints, Statistical Process Control, and Single-Minute Exchange of Dies (SMED).

Additionally, a number of principles, popularized by Toyota’s philosophy, can be applied to all environments to facilitate transformation programs. These include: 5S, quality in the workstation, definition of working standards, Kanban, Andon, and Visual Management.

Many manufacturers limit their transformation initiatives to this first area, which no doubt explains the low long-term success rate of Lean transformation projects.

Our experience has shown that companies often approach change in too technical a manner, and do not focus enough on middle management, on whom the success of transformations is dependent.

Our experience managing these initiatives has convinced us that companies must act on two other levels in order to guarantee the sustainability of the transformation:

  • The Business Management System, which is all-too-often unsuitable, if not inefficient
  • Sustainable changes in behavior, particularly that of middle management

Other factors include: employing the relevant indicators, organizing effective meetings as frequently as necessary for the topics concerned, and creating clear documents containing the information required for good decision-making.

Concrete results will only be achieved by effecting sustainable changes in behavior, which themselves are obtained through explanation, training and, where necessary, coaching. The aim is to ensure that these new operational practices and management methods are used effectively day in, day out.

At Argon Consulting, we base our approach to Lean transformation in a multi-site organization on a "spin-off" principle, which gives teams autonomy. It instills certain key beliefs, to achieve the desired impact on client teams:

  • Stakeholder acceptance of the initiative from the initial auditing phase onwards
  • Mobilization of the entire structure according to key Lean Management principles
  • Implementation of lean management and communication structures
  • Search for the right balance between rapid and medium-term solutions
  • Integration of best practices (solutions that can be transposed to several sites) and deployment methodology.

How can Argon Consulting help you?

  • Auditing, diagnosing and positioning current practices, based on Lean Manufacturing maturity grids
  • Identifying the root causes of efficiency loss (Value Stream Mapping)
  • Identifying the issues linked to current failures and estimating organization and tool development costs (business case)
  • Revising processes in line with best practices and ensuring that they are suited to the specificities of the company
  • Transforming the management systems (documents, meetings, indicators) necessary to steer activities
  • Managing change (changing cultures, behavior, skills, training and communications, etc.)

Case Studies

Identify the paths of improvement of industrial performance for an automotive equipment supplier