Too often, people equate the implementation of lean principles with setting up cells. While this can be an important aspect, it is only one piece of the puzzle.
Without underlying process changes that streamline workflow and an increase in the amount of autonomy and accountability allotted to employees, setting up cells is akin to rearranging the deck chairs. It is also critical for workers to feel a sense ownership over the new system, which can only be achieved through their participation in the redesign project.
Taking these steps requires huge amounts of trust in two directions. Management must be able to depend on employees to conceptualize and execute improvement plans. In turn, workers must have confidence in the vision of company leadership, as well as the skills, tools and sense of purpose that are needed to drive substantive improvement in day-to-day operations.
To an extent, all organizations want their employees to be empowered and autonomous, taking a proactive approach to improving product quality and providing outstanding customer service. However, merely wanting this or saying that it is a goal won't change the facts on the ground.
At Daman Products, we desperately wanted to be the lean organization that we are today for the first 20 years of our existence, but it wasn't until an outside consultant forced us to challenge the things we thought we knew that we were able to start our lean journey in earnest. There was no shortage of anxiety when we abandoned practices we had been using for years, but we were determined to build a better company and willing to do what was necessary to achieve that goal.
When we set up cells in our shop, we ensured that each one would have everything it needed to operate self-sufficiently. This meant buying redundant equipment and bringing team members' leadership skills and confidence up to par, so they could make and execute decisions without having to track down tools or wait for permission from management.
It took many years to build the level of trust required for workers to exercise the level of autonomy that they do today, but we have never doubted that the effort is worthwhile. With a sense of personal accountability and ownership over their working conditions, our employees are capable of achieving great things.
During a three-day 5S event in our largest cell, workers managed a $25,000 budget and sawed up the concrete floor of our shop to eliminate an OSHA compliance issue with virtually no oversight from senior leadership. This type of project would never be possible in an organization with a conventional management structure.
For us, it was just another day in our quest to be the best supplier of standard and custom hydraulic manifolds. The depth of this commitment and level of our passion are often difficult for new customers to grasp. For more information on how Daman Products implements lean principles, please review our new white paper.