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The Lean Manufacturing Process and China

Randy Hough
 


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When I read a blog post by a Chinese immigrant, I immediately knew he was right. . . when it comes to the lean manufacturing process, many Western companies are just as slow as mud.

This manufacturing engineer was so frustrated because his company just did not see any good reason for 5S, Kaizen, Six Sigma or any of the other lean manufacturing techniques.

Why some companies refuse lean manufacturing implementation

  • Management typically focuses on numbers. If you can present your case in a numbers formula, they might listen. The old guard is just the “old guard" and change comes with difficulty. Only as a last resort will some companies change.
  • Top management is usually more interested in top-line growth (sales). Only when they “hit the wall" will they begin to reconsider.
  • Management focuses on new products, new equipment, and anything that will increase production. Eliminating waste is such a reverse idea to many people

What can you do to wake them up?

  • Find out what makes them react. If you can present your case as a matter of increased profits, for example, they will certainly perk up.
  • Develop a presentation that focuses on numbers. Quantify your reasons for the lean manufacturing process. This will take it out of the abstract and make it more tangible.
  • Give concrete examples of other similar companies success stories. Present your plan in non lean terminology. For example: instead of calling it 5S, say you want to “tidy up. " This will not trigger the automatic negative response you might often receive.
  • Be persistent and keep trying. Eventually you will succeed.

What about China?

Chinese companies are very often many years ahead of Western companies in the lean manufacturing process. Perhaps this is partly due to the fact that many of these companies are, from the outset, globally minded.

According to the blog post I read, and other sources, Chinese companies are very quick to adapt policies of reducing waste. This makes sense, because the West is so full of waste as a culture!

If your culture has existed for 5,000 years in the same place, you surely have learned a few things about reducing waste and making use of what you have.

Compare this to North America, where abundance has been the norm for hundreds of years. Waste is almost built into the system!

Conclusion

Perhaps China is not entirely to blame for the decline in Western manufacturing after all. Could it be partly our own doing? Maybe our reluctance to change and adapt new ideas has made us slow and inefficient.

If top-management could re-focus on the reduction of wasted time, effort, skill, and personnel, the profits would increase, as well as morale!

Randy Hough

Master Mold Maker
Learn the secrets of plastic injection mold making and how to make your shop more profitable. After over 30 years I've seen what works and what doesn't.

Our http://WhatIsLeanManufacturing.com site is full of ideas, resources, books and connections to help you in your business.

"You know Dad, I've been thinkin', one is a lot more than zero!" my son, Thomas, age 5.

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