Temporary Consequences of Making the Change to Lean Manufacturing

The concept of lean manufacturing is no longer a new one. It’s been around, tried and tested, for several decades now, improving production output and minimizing waste, as its principles were designed to do. It’s odd, then, that there are still so many businesses who have yet to streamline their workspaces and policies to reflect lean principles. In addition to the time required to make a change to lean, there are several possible side-effects of the transition that may account for some of this cautiousness. Let’s take a look at a few of the most common now, and open up a quick dialogue about each.

Change is Uncomfortable

Many of the side-effects of a lean transition period often come from the ways in which your employees themselves will respond. Whenever anything changes in a major way, there is likely to be resistance. One of the key places this begins to show is in quantifying performance, especially if it is posted or disclosed publicly. When a team or worker is seeing their performance reflected on a wall or whiteboard, it can, instead of motivating, discourage. It is important to explain your reasoning behind such postings soundly to employees, and frame it in a positive light.

It Might Be Too Much

That initial discomfort is usually overcome fairly quickly, but some employees will simply not click with the continuous improvement culture fostered by a lean environment. Some people are stubborn, and won’t be a fan of the change. Ultimately, it is up to you and the employee to sort out whether they can adapt and perform as part of the team or if you need to part ways. Even if an employee stays on, it may be required to terminate those who are causing problems or hold-ups.
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Problems You Didn’t Even Know You Had

When you’re actively digging deeper and deeper to improve your throughput, you may run into underlying problems that you didn’t even know you had. At first, this can make it seem like your process is causing more problems than it is fixing, but it is important to remember that the problems you discover were there the whole time, and knowing about them doesn’t make things worse. In fact, it  puts you in a position to fix them.

Time & Money

Because lean principles dramatically reduce inventory kept on hand and seem to eliminate unnecessary processes, your accounting look a little strange at first. Know that reflections in your budget and financial documents may have strange fluctuation at first, it may even appear to be a net negative change at first – make sure anyone else who handles or monitors accounting is aware of this.

In addition to discrepancies in financial evaluations, time also becomes a slightly different beast. When your production is streamlined, employees may actually run out of work or stand around more because they are done earlier. When this happens, it is important to make sure that they aren’t standing around between production just because they know their work is now more efficient and don’t feel a time crunch. Instead, send employees home earlier when they finish their days early, or, if you are in a position to scale up, use this extra time to take on new business, since you now have the capacity to handle it.

As with all transitions, the side-effects of moving towards a lean environment are generally temporary and phase out quickly after an initial transitioning period.