Marilyn Evans’ article, "Handle With Care," in the September issue is spot on. Any enterprise, regardless of industry, will benefit by involving their preferred suppliers as early as possible in the development of new products.
She correctly identifies at least three of the core groups (along with the supplier, of course) necessary to ensure a development process is successful: procurement, quality and R&D (or design). For a manufactured product, it would also be beneficial to add a manufacturing person to the team.
Failure to take advantage of a key supplier’s expertise can be disastrous, particularly if flaws in the design are not discovered until later in the process. It reminds me of a line from one of the old oil-filter commercials on TV: You can pay me now, or pay me later. Working in partnership with your suppliers early will go a long way toward doing things right the first time.
I have serious objections to the statement: Lean is about people, not techniques ("Keep It Simple," September 2010). Successful lean implementation requires people’s involvement and commitment, but they should also know how to do lean work or should be trained to do lean work.
You cannot implement lean production if you don’t have people who can make a flow diagram, identify bottlenecks and redo the layout. People should at least know the basic tools of quality improvement, and should be able to discover causes of defects and eliminate them to prevent defective products.
Designing a just-in-time system using kanban is another technique they should know, as well as how to balance a production line and get the cycle time below the takt time. They should know how to smooth the demand and provide an even production schedule.
Lean depends on people’s involvement and their passion to improve the system continuously. But if you do not provide training in lean tools, they are going to face problems and not know how to solve them.
I have been in the pharmaceutical industry for 30 years and considered myself a "lean thinker" many years before I began my lean Six Sigma Black Belt training. Without formal training in lean techniques, I implemented many changes to remove what I later learned were known as wastes.
For this reason, I totally agree that lean thinking is a way of life. The techniques help detect the needs, the creativity helps establish solutions, but the people that perform the process must buy in to the idea if the implementation is going to be successful.
The key to success is balancing people, techniques, training, engagement, empowerment, direct supervision, management support, quality and safety. Each element involves people, and it is why, in "Keep It Simple," Adil Dalal says people are the key. After all, why do you need the techniques if you don’t have anyone to use them?
Guayama, Puerto Rico