Lean production involves the best processes and practices that are used to optimize resources and maximize output in the fastest business operations. In his article, Dolc (2008) defines lean production as an umbrella for high quality management, prolonged improvement, zero effects and all terminologies used to describe doing things effectively and efficiently. Lean production is also referred to as agile production or just in time (JIT) manufacturing and it seeks to maximize operational effectiveness of any business by creating value of the end product in the eyes of the customer.
The ultimate goal of lean is to improve the flow of cash and increase operating profits by doing the following: reducing stock, cycle time, delivery time, and set up time. It also aims at improving quality and realizing customer satisfaction while boosting morale for employees. To think lean, according to Dolc (2008), is to change from internal focused thinking to external focused thinking. It is also an abandonment of the old paradigm to new one using revolutionary ideas. Companies which deal directly with customers and clients are best suited to the lean system since the process focuses on quick and uninterrupted product flow through the value stream.
Toyota is one example of companies that utilizes lean production system (Liker & McGraw, 2004).This article explores the applicability of the just in time system in the Toyota Company while identifying whether or how the system have enabled the company to improve. Toyota has the most rapid product growth in the whole world and the company is used as a reference point as far as quality, productivity, speed of manufacturing and flexibility is concerned.
The company has greatly improved their effectiveness with the system and their profit and the quality of their automobile is just proving this. While Quoting Womack and Jones in their book titled lean thinking, Dolc (2008) says lean is the best way, to specify value and line up value while creating actions in flowing action.
However, (Dolc 2008) asserts that the kind of successes that Toyota has enjoyed over the years cannot be duplicated to other companies by using the same tools Toyota employs. The secret according to the author is identifying what exactly lean means for any given organization and establish what other options are available to make lean applicable.
The article goes on to describe understanding of the customers and the value system as the first steps towards successful application of the just in time process. It is only after this, that a company can begin to eliminate waste. He expresses confidence that if there is an agreement that lean production is about doing away with waste and creating value to the customer, then lean is applicable to any organization.
There exist a lot of debates in both print and electronic media regarding the applicability of lean production. To determine, whether lean manufacturing principles can be applied to construction industry, an assessment was conducted using six case studies with the main goal being to develop an all-inclusive set of lean principles and to validate them using field Observation. To accomplish the task, the researchers used questionnaires to conduct an interview within the construction firm and after sometime they presented the findings.
One of the findings of the study was that Lean production provides high potential for improving construction industry. The report identified the specific areas where the lean principles are applicable in construction industry and they include: customer focus, workplace standardization, waste elimination, culture and people and finally quality improvement (Dolc, 2008).
In the wake of world financial crisis, increasing competition and pressure from customers, Many companies are now beginning to adopt and implement the just in time production. But whether or not they are using the effective lean implementation still remain a point of discussion. The article covers five crucial steps for planning for lean implementation. The first step is performing a lean assessment in order to identify strengths and weaknesses of an organization.
What follows is monitoring and tracking metrics as a way of knowing where you are in terms of transformation. The third step is to come out with one year implementation plan and then organizing a timely training plan. After all this done effectively, the last step is to come out with a communication and reward plan that enables communication within the lean system to be smooth (Dolc, 2008).
In his article, Dolc (2008) came out with a form of powerful combination by combining both Lean systems with other programs such as the Six sigma. Six sigma is generally concerned with minimizing variability and improving quality. But according to Liker & McGraw (2004) analysis, despite the quality of Toyota automotives and their lean success story, Toyota Company does not have a sigma program in place. They simply utilize only the tools for six sigma in their lean system. Referring to Womack and Jones work, Dolc (2008) identifies a specific case study on fifty companies which have implemented lean production. After an initial conversion, he found out that companies had an average of 50% decrease in errors reaching customer.
The financial credit crunch is here with us now and the world economy is being faced by an imminent stagflation. Dolc (2008) writes that at this period it is difficult to obtain credit, at the same time businesses cannot operate without cash since they need to make payroll, purchase inventory and grow in general. Using the five principles of lean which include specifying value, creating flow, customer pull and seeking perfection business can easily navigate these difficult times. The effects of these principles are reduction in inventories and quicker response to customers, product improvement and quality improvement. In short the company will end up being more self reliant at the same time being less reliant to the credit (Dolc 2008).
Liker, K. J., McGraw, H. (2004). The Toyota Way. London: McGraw hill publishers
(Liker & McGraw, 2004)
Dolcmascolo, A. (Dolc) (2008). Implementing lean manufacturing. Lean Manufacturing
Journal. Retrieved on November 4, 2008 from