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Jeff Liker

Dan Jones: Lean, Quality and Cost Cutting

By Jeff Liker, - Last updated: Thursday, April 22, 2010 - Save & Share - Leave a comment

I have met many of these folks too who talk about lean but whose heads are stuck in the old cost cutting mind set. Organisations that employ them, whether as internal or external consultants, deserve what they get – traditional cost cutting! A great shame and a missed opportunity. On the other hand I have also met good lean folk who know all the tools but who do not have an A3 plan to guide their actions. And I often encounter quality folks who imply that improving quality is somehow more virtuous than the grubby task of eliminating waste, which usually means no longer wasting someone’s time. While it is easy to cast blame, the truth is that we the teachers in both movements have not reached or taught these pupils or their paymasters well enough. We still have a lot more to do.

This is why I am convinced that these two movements must come together and stop sniping at each other. Improvements in quality are not sustainable in my experience unless they are embedded in a lean process with no room for regression when we move on to tackle other problems. Many quality folks more fascinated with eliminating point variation and establishing standard ways of working before moving on to the next problem are if they are honest not really convinced of this. It is too easy to blame the client for not being able to sustain their improvements.

Equally it is impossible to link steps together to create flow without first establishing what lean folk call basic stability and the quality folk call reducing variance. The two have to go hand in hand. The lean folk who know Toyota always tells us to start with quality, then delivery and then cost take this for granted and wonder what all the fuss is about. But many quality folk are often unsure whether this level of cooperation along a value stream is really realistic and possible to sustain. They are right that the changes in how we work together to manage a lean process are more radical and challenge traditional ways of managing operations. While quality may at least initially be compatible with modern management lean is not. Together however they can change the world!

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