Traditional “lean tools” drove early success on several projects. Our employees were trained solidly in the fundamentals, as well as some even deeper training for a better understanding of specific lean tools—i.e., where projects had higher stakes or just required more focused improvements.
- Value stream mapping
- Cellular work flow design
- Visual systems
- Set-up reduction
Early efforts brought big improvements, such as reducing set-ups on a family of parts from days to hours, or trimming several days from a lead time with value stream mapping, one-piece flow, and cellular design. Through using these lean tools, we were able to achieve unprecedented levels of productivity and improve delivery, which lasted for several years.
It is common, however, for results to peak or even revert to the prior state all together. Though we were relatively new with lean, we learned that a “tools only” approach had certain vulnerabilities. This only reinforced our commitment to continuous improvement, having achieved real progress.