A lean enterprise refers to a production term which focuses on providing a high value product to the customer by implementing a methodology that eliminates any non-essential processes. A lean enterprise can achieve this by identifying customer demands and optimizing those services that lead to the overall betterment, whilst removing all those components that do not benefit the customer. Lean is a way of thinking that can be adopted by any industry or enterprise to reduce any inefficiency in their processes and focus on producing end results at lesser costs and reduced defects. To understand the core of a lean enterprise, the following five characteristics must be given highest attention:
1) As a lean consultant would recommend, the focus should be on the purpose and strategies of your enterprise. The goal is to define your mission and optimize the operations around that. The customer’s expectations of quality and price should be given the highest priority. It is crucial that the purpose of the enterprise is clear to every employee, and everyone is involved in maximizing the value to the customer, thus maximizing the overall success. The enterprise should promote a culture where every decision is taken to benefit the customer, resulting in achievement of common goals. It must involve transparency amongst all employees and such communication would definitely help in improving the performance of the organization. All this leads to a healthy and productive work system which is highly sustainable.
2) A lean enterprise must aim for continuous improvement, as there is always an opportunity to get better. For reaping the benefits of lean, all the employees must be aware of the common goals (and not just their own job profiles) and should be committed to aligning their work towards achieving these goals. Educate them and share the knowledge in order for them to manage the value of the entire enterprise rather than just one department. Sharing experiences amongst everyone, also called as cross functional collaboration, helps in overcoming hindrances by getting to their root cause.The optimization of everyone’s abilities leads to the comprehensive growth of the enterprise.
3) Lean enterprises are more invested in preventing waste at every step by engaging employees to adopt the 5S methodology. The 5S helps in creating a safer work culture thus encouraging employees to oversee production at every step rather than just focusing on the last step. It also requires for issues to be brought up for discussion without hesitation and improvements to be made immediately for better results. Also, documentation of the processes must be done by lean consultants for avoiding the same mistakes from happening in the future.
4) A lean enterprise must aim to be resilient and progressive throughout the process of implementation of lean manufacturing techniques. It’s not an overnight task and help can be taken from a lean consultant to provide solutions for unexpected issues and to bring in tactics for enabling the technology. A lean consultant can also help in building confidence amongst the employees and empowering them to take up newer responsibilities that they are capable of fulfilling better. It’s also important to understand that there is so much to learn when it comes to Lean, so everyone must be encouraged to question in order to learn better. This also helps in building trust amongst the employees and makes them feel empowered.
5) A flexible workforce is a huge asset and helps in reducing errors by being alert. When employees partner to execute operations with flexibility and concentrate on the correct utilization of resources, it leads to a higher level of waste reduction within the organization. Also, defining processes and techniques leads to betterment of the system and creates a transparent workflow. This in turn, leads to improvement in performance and overall product quality. Make sure to appreciate your employees when they achieve any milestone within the enterprise. One more important factor to keep in mind whilst defining the processes is to always be proactive to prevent any problems from occurring. It is always better to be cautious than to be regretful.
When you start your journey towards being a lean enterprise, a lot has to be changed and it definitely takes time, energy, efforts. Visualize a high value generating system and optimize the entire production system by avoiding complexity while simultaneously maximizing results. This will eventually help your enterprise become more competitive and effective in your targeted industry. And when your enterprise wins, everyone associated with it wins as well.