What a tricky question, don’t you think? Looking merely at the words, it looks like a contradiction in itself, since “LEAN” and “BIG” have quite different meanings!
But this question is still actual and deserves an answer.
Of course, the answer is
“NOT AT ALL, IT APPLIES EVERYWHERE, EVEN IN MY KID BEDROOM”
(for example, Lean Manufacturing could be quite useful here).
The reason why we need to address this doubt is … a matter of time, importance/urgency, culture.
I’ll try to make myself clear.
With “time,” I specifically reference here the timeline since the outset of Lean in the Western industry.
In the beginning, it all came from automotive, which was mainly composed of big companies.
We need to remember that this method started somehow when BPR was the main wave, and the words were efficiency, cost cut, process design.
So, craftsmanship probably was in some way left behind or did not feel like trying, because it all looked so… industrial??
It was something new, to be tested, and even the pioneers probably needed to get measurable results in relatively short time (time, again…).
The results needed to be visible, dramatic, and worth to follow.
This is why in “Lean Thinking” the read about Coca-Cola, Porsche, and not small firms.
Then, as it happens, this became a rule… so, the “Lean is not for me” that we sometimes hear around, for example from Italian small and medium companies.
Luckily, enough time has passed, and now we know, and we have a lot of examples, that LEAN APPLIES TO EVERY PROCESS/ENVIRONMENT/PROBLEM
I need to disclose some “how to” here, I’ll do my best to make you still call me to help in your improvement journey!
I met Lean Manufacturing used within BIG PHARMA.
Let’s be honest; it’s a rich world!
If I’m a small firm, and I need to improve, probably I need to improve very quickly.
I want some quick advice from my consultants; then I will do my best to put them into practice.
I, the boss/owner, will do it, maybe with another director or co-owner, because we need our resources to go on with production.
What Lean brought about was that yes, you could make some quick improvement/change this way, but without people, involvement change will not stick and so will do the results of the improvements.
I read somewhere that BPR “forgot about the people,” and it sounds correct to me!
But, in the big/rich industry, it was possible to invest all the time, and resources requested to train people, involve them in finding what to improve, create the appropriate internal structure and the “continuous improvement” cycle.
They made time to do what was important before it became urgent.
Still, this is the past.
Now small firms know that it’s worth to involve people in the improvements projects, because this way they grow… “internal consultants,” that will go on bringing benefits, because of the training and the experience made with the consultant at the beginning, and because when people feel valued are happy to contribute!
The big one.
Don’t know where to start… probably from the concept of POWER.
Knowledge is power, they say.
We know that information that does not flow as appropriate is WASTE.
But in small firms it’s difficult.
Going lean means, among other beautiful changes, that we need to make processes VISIBLE and ROBUST.
I can not make my customer unhappy because an employee is ill at home.
So, I need to map the processes, the knowledge, information, technology, etc. to run them and assure continuity.
To be honest, usually, this is not a problem in very small firms, where everyone can do anything.
Let’s be clear again.
Every company is born lean; we do not design for waste!
Then we grow, we need different functions, and waste arise.
I want to keep the power coming from my knowledge, so I do not want to share it, I don’t want to standardize because my standard is better than yours… But all of this is changing too!
Even small firms are more and more clear that to survive, then thrive, they need to SEE THEIR PROCESSES, and put in place a mechanism for continuous improvement at all levels because the world is everyday changing!
Something has started, and will not stop…
Written by :
Daniela Gamberini has more than 20 years experience in Lean and Coaching.
Where is Lean Manufacturing used?
I have just found on the internet a video that started a new branch of Lean!
The Lean Farming!
See the video now: