I’ve often written about how lean manufacturing methods can be applied to the home, but working on lean in my inlaws’ home has now made me realize something that could impact lean in manufacturing. How often do you consider the frame of reference of your team members when trying to implement lean concepts? Let’s take the workplace organization activities of 5S as an example.
The basic principles of 5S require that you sort and organize. You red tag old equipment, tools, parts, and other materials… and then get whatever isn’t needed out of your operation. This frees up space, reduces clutter, and thereby reduces muda. This is fairly easy for the younger employees to understand, especially if they recently escaped the cramped confines of a dorm room or first apartment. Minimization is key to simply being able to walk around.
But what if you were in your late 50’s or 60’s?
If that was the case you would have grown up during the aftermath of the Great Depression, and experienced World War II. Times were rough. In some cases there were products but no money, and in others there was money but a shortage of rationed materials. Everything was saved, and very creative ways were found to reuse and recycle almost anything.
It was also more difficult to get parts… you couldn’t simply go online and order something from your workstation, and have it delivered by FedEx or UPS the next day. Actually this change of mentality also affects those of us in our late 30’s and early 40’s! In a pre- Home Depot world It was easier to rummage through a huge bucket of random nuts and bolts to find one of the right size than to run around to a myriad of small hardware stores hoping they had the required part in stock.
So here comes this new whippersnapper engineer with this great idea for something called "5S", and she wants you to get rid of all your buckets of parts. That flies in the face of your upbringing, your frugality, and what you’ve learned to be an efficient way of getting a replacement part fast. There better be one heck of a supporting argument!
And perhaps that’s what we need to do a better job of, and not just for the older generation. We need to explain WHY 5S works, and what we want to accomplish with it. We need to explain what the vision is and why it is important. We need to sincerely listen to and discuss the concerns. For that is the mark of a true leader working to create a lean culture.