Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Lean Manufacturing Failure

There is a blog I read on a regular basis called Evolving Excellence. This week there was a link from that blog to an article in the Wall Street Journal that discussed why lean programs fail. Specifically the author focused on why Six Sigma or Lean manufacturing initiatives fail and the conclusion is interesting. These programs start off with the best of intentions and then before long they loose steam and get put on the back burner.

The author states that "recent studies, for example, suggest that nearly 60% of all corporate Six Sigma initiatives fail to yield the desired results." After performing a five year study, the author, Satya Chakravorty, noted that generally these programs start with the help of an outside facilitator who is able to lead the groups to early and significant improvement. It is after the outside help has left the daily operations that the initiatives loose steam.

This was the case because once the facilitator was gone, the managers and supervisors became engulfed in the day to day activities and lost focus on the "lean program." Satya recommends that firms keep the outside support and also have internal support from upper management for these programs to remain successful.

Long-term the lean manufacturing process can help a company transform from a good company to a great company but it is not without pain. To get this culture of respect for people and continuous improvement part of the DNA of a firm takes tremendous time and energy. This is worth considering before taking on the Lean Journey.

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