What’s the rush?

By Richard Kunst   

Facilities Maintenance Industry Operations Manufacturing continuous improvement Kaizen Lean manufacturing think lean TPM

You could be committing Kamikaze Kaizen.

Slowing the lean process down improves employee uptake over the long term. PHOTO: THINKSTOCK

Slowing the lean process down improves employee uptake over the long term. PHOTO: THINKSTOCK

Many manufacturers try to accelerate lean deployment through kaizen event-based workshops. They identify an area of improvement, round up team members, provide some training and focus on making the improvement in a few days. In essence, they’re committing Kamikaze Kaizen.

Implementing lean tools and methodologies is easy; matching implementation to the absorption rate of your organization can be much less so.

Before the journey begins, have a clear vision of your brand image to which everyone can conform.

Apply methodologies that build organizational infrastructure to sustain change and don’t deploy too many at once. Pick no more than three that will deliver the greatest impact and focus on them for the next year.


One of the best methodologies for sustaining change or creating that distributed accountability is the use of TPM. Initially it was known as total predictive maintenance. Operators conducted self checks on equipment to detect issues that could become bigger problems. It then morphed into total productive maintenance, adding some minor maintenance such as changing filters and lubrication. But the checklist is so powerful and using the TPM stations so effective it just seems right to incorporate as many checklists into one methodology as possible. So these days we call it total productive management. You still do the regular area checks and minor maintenance, but add paperwork completion, kanban checks and replenishments along with the requisite 5S daily requirements. If you witness something you don’t like, it goes on the TPM checklist. Culture is adjusted one check mark at a time, but as the initial checklist is developed, compare the checks against your brand image to ensure it will not become tarnished.

Quickly deploy a report-out methodology to improve communication and eliminate disturbances to flow. Many companies that use dashboards wonder why they’re not improving performance. It’s simple: the graphs and charts are computer generated, which takes time and motion (a waste) and they typically deliver information only. A good report-out methodology harvests information and displays it for all to see. Back to basics is key. An employee gets no greater reward than being able to update a chart at the end of the day to acknowledge great performance.

Slow things down
Adopting these methodologies evolves the culture slowly as people learn to see flow and identify waste. They may not know how to fix it but they’ll be more open to suggestions for change.

As their lives become easier and your organization is willingly accepting change, you can finally step on the accelerator of change.

In a culture focused on continuous improvement (CI) all roads lead to leaders who drive the process in the natural course of running the business. Envision an organization where most of them have the ability to facilitate various improvement efforts so lean and CI will withstand budget cuts during difficult financial times when many organizations gut or disband lean or CI groups.

It will take time to achieve, even years, but if this is the necessary and true destination, start down the path at the beginning of a lean transformation.

Richard Kunst is president and CEO of Cambridge, Ont.-based Kunst Solutions Corp., which publishes the “Lean Thoughts” e-newsletter and helps companies become more agile, develop evolutionary management and implement lean solutions.

This article appears in the July/August 2015 issue of PLANT.


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