Yesterday we told you about IBM claiming they are implementing lean manufacturing… by laying off people. Obviously this flies right in the face of real lean, therefore we called them LAME… Lean As Misguidedly Executed. An Evolving Excellence reader was kind enough to send me a link to a recent white paper by MRO Software… an IBM company. This paper helps explain why IBM doesn’t exactly understand real lean.
The paper questions the value of lean for maintenance and repair operations, and unfortunately distorts some conclusions from the Industry Week and Michael George surveys to support this proposition.
In the search for world-class performance levels, many companies have adopted lean approaches to production with varying degrees of success. For many companies, the promised benefits of lean have not been realized, and indeed some have moved backwards rather than progressed forward toward their goals.
Measured in terms of their achievement of lean goals, only half of the companies studied had moved forward, while the remainder had gotten worse. For those who improved, gains were relatively small when measured in terms of the expectations of lean benefits. However, a small population demonstrated the true potential of lean by delivering improvements of up to 300%.
A clue to this distortion comes from the definition of lean used in the white paper.
Toyota’s system is centered on continuous improvement and zero tolerance levels for all forms of waste in the manufacturing process, including poor equipment reliability and downtime. Toyota succeeded with lean production because it was able to implement the principles against the background of a zero breakdown regime delivered by a strong focus on equipment performance and asset life cycle management.
How many times do we have to point out the very fundamental flaw in this description. Waste reduction is one pillar of lean. Respect for people is the other, oft-forgotten, pillar. That is the core reason why "a small population demonstrated the true potential of lean by delivering improvements of up to 300%." Those few companies leveraged the knowledge, creativity, and experience of their people to generate incredible ongoing continuous improvement, instead of thinking of them as a simple hourly cost.
The white paper goes on to postulate that software systems are required to "unlock the hidden power of lean."
To achieve results by focusing on equipment performance, it is essential to use a proven software solution, which supports all relevant business processes to monitor, support and manage all critical and strategic assets and asset management-related services within the enterprise.
Perhaps instead of pushing complex software solutions, IBM should invest in the creativity and experience of their people. Instead of laying them off in the name of lean manufacturing.