Build your brand with tools that improve your plant’s processes

By Richard Kunst   

Industry Production Manufacturing 5S Lean manufacturing production

Achieve velocity and increase your value to the customer.

Kanban provides visual authorization. PHOTO: Adobe Stock

Your company has identified a product or service that the world needs. Initially you put in countless hours and lots of energy, and you created a process.

As demand increases, you add people, move to a larger location, but with the initial process still in place. Along comes a consultant who encourages you to adopt lean methodologies. What should you do?

Well, start by understanding lean is not a cost reduction exercise. It’s about increasing velocity within your process while enhancing your brand image.

Most manufacturers start and often stop with 5S, believing they’ve implemented lean, but what they’ve actually done is complete a huge house cleaning exercise.


5S is a lot about building your brand. Consider what kind of professional image you want your organization to project. Articulate this into quantifiable requirements such as colour, font size and the “no tape” rule where reminders written on plain paper and taped to walls, doors or workstations are forbidden.

Building your brand image reflects the respect your people and process deserve. The environment surrounding your process should be inviting and professional. This will engage your employees to act professionally and make them proud to be part of the team. A disorganized work area says professional standards are not required.

As you implement 5S, look at how your workplace reduces walking distance and repetitive reach (two steps is five feet and reaching 30 inches is 0.6 seconds each time).

Adoption of lean methodology is about opening capacity, particularly if you approach 5S implementation with “eyes for flow” and “eyes for waste.” Most manufacturers are focused on cost reductions, equating them with less head count. In most cases adding people or re-allocating resources significantly improves process velocity, enhances customer delight and could become a significant competitive differentiator.

At a large RV dealership, employees blamed the OEM for poor quality and the response to any customer was two weeks, because that was perceived as the industry standard. Minor process modifications could dramatically improve throughput velocity and increase business exponentially. Yet, when they’re making so much money, there’s no burning platform to spur change.

If you do not have a burning platform (urgent need to change) to stimulate action, create one. Sometimes the vision may not be immediately evident, but it will become clearer with progress.

Focusing on velocity and lean methodologies makes sense, but it’s very important to respect your people and provide feedback constantly.

Opening capacity

Run boards stimulate the competitiveness within each employee as they strive to meet hourly targets or exceed them. And daily management report-outs allow employees to share disturbances to flow experienced over the previous 24 hours, as well as express concerns about potential issues in the coming 24 hours.

Kanban provides a visual authorization to produce, replenish or retrieve. A kanban at the finished goods level fuels the production kanban.

Typically there’s a 30% reduction in finished goods inventory while improving machine uptime. Why? Because employees know the process and can optimize it.

Of course reflections are mandatory for success, whether in real time (supervisors), daily (management report-outs) or monthly (four month, check, do, act, plan). It’s from here the richness of enhancing your lean deployment comes. Many focus on the implementation and forget to take time to get “on” the business because it seems like too much fun being “in” the business.

Finally, an effective lean program comes with lots of checklists and many white boards. Checklists act as an alarm to wake up employees if something is not correct, and prompts them to rectify the situation – very much like error proofing a process. Employees use whiteboards to give real-time feedback, which they trust and believe in more than any computer generated metric.

Ultimately, lean is a reflection of your business. How is it looking?

Richard Kunst is president and CEO of Cambridge, Ont.-based Kunst Solutions Corp., which helps companies become more agile, develop evolutionary management and implement lean solutions. Visit E-mail

This article appeared in the November-December 2018 print issue of PLANT.



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