Lean Manufacturing Only Works when you Focus on People

posted on: Tuesday November 15, 2016

Manufacturing has seen some amazing improvements in the last several decades. Tools and equipment make jobswork-1713103_1280 easier and allow more work to be done in less time. These advancements alone, however, do not make manufacturers as successful as possible. Output is not the only factor to measure when you look at overall profit potential. Lean strategies have helped us recognize that there are many wastes present in our processes that, when eliminated, optimize our capabilities.

In other words, by making the most of our resources, we can spend less, produce more, and have greater potential for growth. One of the most important resources we have is people.

It is vital that we examine how to make the most of our human resources for several reasons. In manufacturing, one urgent reason is the labor shortage.  This field is attracting much fewer people today than it did thirty years ago. So we have a workforce that is getting older, and therefore more limited in their physical capabilities, and also not enough young people to take their place when they retire.

Additionally, it is the people using the tools and equipment who determine their success. When software or machines are misused or underutilized, mistakes are made. At the least, this creates wastes in time, and at worst, it can result in injuries, which can be fatal.

Perhaps the most overlooked reason why people need to be protected and prioritized as resources is because they are always, always the source of solutions. A machine isn’t going to evaluate your process and identify what is broken. Software and other tools can help you analyze and correct your operation, but they can’t think on their own. They can’t have ideas, and they don’t have opinions about the quality of working conditions.

So while reducing the amount of labor that’s necessary to accomplish work might sound like you’re eliminating jobs, it really isn’t. It simply allows people to do their jobs efficiently. It also creates a culture that fosters innovation. When people can focus on what they are doing, and they’re in a culture that encourages continuous improvement, they are more likely to identify opportunities to improve.

This is why lean strategies work best when you get buy-in from your entire staff. You have to prove to them that change benefits them. You also need to establish an environment in which their ideas and feedback are valued. The more important they feel to the entire process, the more likely they will be to not only accept change, but also provide ongoing solutions.

Therefore, whether you’re buying equipment or implementing a lean strategy, you have to approach it from the perspective that you’re giving your people the greatest opportunity to do their best work.

That’s what happens when our clients come to us with questions about power tugs. Rather then pull extra guys off of their duties to help push a heavy cart or machine, they want to make the job easy for one person to accomplish without strain. They want to reduce the number of trips one person has to make to and from workstations in a shift. They want to empower their managers to seamlessly pitch in when they practice Management by Walking Around. They want to create safer work environments that aren’t so hard on the bodies of their employees.

Power tugs are great tools to optimize your people resources. Load Mover, Inc. has helped manufacturers across the nation improve the ease, safety, and productivity of jobs for their employees. Tell us about your manual material handling tasks, and if a power tug would benefit your people, we’ll identify how. Call us at 952-767-1720 or email info@loadmoverinc.com.