When Lean Works: Gracefulness and Gratitude

Lean indicators of grace and gratitude

How to spot a lean company – gracefulness and gratitude.

If went in and toured two facilities, could you distinguish one with a truly lean culture from one that doesn’t? I wouldn’t have. Until Wednesday. Here’s the answer: You’d see gracefulness and gratitude.

The people would be moving through their work with grace: with no hitches, confusion, sidetracking or backtracking. When one group or person’s task was complete, the recipient of that work would be grateful, because they too would be in a position to be graceful with their work.

That’s wisdom from MIT’s Steven Spear, Senior Lecturer at the MIT Sloan School of Management and at the Engineering Systems Division at MIT. An engineer who has studied lean for years.

This week I was at one of the premier Lean educational events in the country (according to Spear and several other luminaries), GBMP’s Northeast L.E.A.N. Conference. This conference revealed to me the deep understanding of humanity at the center not only of the concepts of lean, but of those organizations that have succeeded with lean programs, projects… and culture.

The array of organizations and disciplines who presented goes far beyond the automotive plant floor where Toyota’s production system. Yes, front-line value-adding work but also innovation, IT, procurement, maintenance and repair, administration… In manufacturing and many other industries.

Sustaining lean success is greatly enabled by making it easy to see standard work, to evaluate what’s working based on reliable data, and to collaborate with others. That is the value of software, and GBMP sees it too.

Some of the exhibitors and a poster presenter this year showed interesting technology.

  • KPI Fire – Designed to align and make visible strategy and execution, this sleek product delivers visual dashboards of progress against KPIs for initiatives, goals, objectives and projects plus a way for employees to provide input in the idea generator. Far simpler than most KPI dashboards, and more tightly tied to strategy.
  • Machine Metrics – While the name and screens point to its strong production monitoring analytics software, it can also claim to be MES with automatic data collection (MTConnect, OPC and over 100 PLCs) and job scheduling and dispatching.
  • Glovia – This is a company I’ve known for years that has baked out out a full enterprise suite, and has special capabilities to support in its G2 Suite for lean. The entire focus is on complex discrete manufacturing. They even have a lean consulting group.
  • Synovos – How can you manage supply chains and assets? Synovos does it with turnkey services, powered by a suite of Asset management, MRO supply chain, and mobile. This renamed company has also been around for decades and has expanded from process and batch into discrete industries.
  • Tulip – This team of 25 MIT brainiacs figured out how to IoT enable manual operations with shop floor apps and analytics. With no IoT interface standards today, figuring out how to connect every tool is a daunting task. Apps include visual work instructions, digital forms for ideas, quality and audits, performance dashboards, and training.

Next year’s conference theme will include how to mesh lean practices, principles and cultures with supportive technology. (September 19-20 2017) So there will likely be more technology providers then.

Do you want to be more profitable and productive?  Consider how to make your people more graceful and grateful. Then use lean tools, thinking and approaches along with appropriate technology to remove obstacles to that grace. Your employees, leaders, and shareholders will all be grateful.

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One Response to “When Lean Works: Gracefulness and Gratitude”

  1. Gary Mintchell October 8, 2016 at 2:30 pm #

    Hi Julie, glad to see you got a good introduction to Lean. I’m jealous. Principle number one–respect for people. Charles Duhigg has a good chapter on the topic in his latest book Smarter, Faster, Better.

    When I was putting together what became Automation World in early 2003, I had some feedback that we shouldn’t cover Lean because “it is old.” My first issue had an interview with a Lean guru. And we went from there.

    Thanks for the article. Cheers.

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