Businesses always strive for efficiency and quality in the bid to fulfill their visions. Specific approaches to attaining much-needed quality and efficiency include lean management. In simple terms, lean management entails delivering value from a customer's perspective, elimination of waste, and continuous improvement. Lean comprises of nine elements, seven wastes, and five steps. Cornelissen (2013) explains the interaction of the factors together with the wastes and steps. A component is responsible for the reduction of reduces one or more wastes and thus fitting in at least one of the steps. One of the elements is Just In Time, which consists of process synchronization, production leveling, and standard time and pulls. Cornelissen (2013) explains that production leveling controls fluctuation in production capacity while pull production discourages overproduction as manufacturing of goods happens only if a customer demands. Production cycle runs on standard time; hence, no need for unnecessary waiting. Searls (2017) explains the ideology of Just-In-Time production as the buying and storing of materials only enough for production at each stage.
Another core element of lean, as explained by Cornelissen (2013), includes scientific management, which comprises of policy deployment, workforce reduction, cellular manufacturing, layout adjustments, time/work studies and multi manning. Policy deployment involves delegating as much responsibility as possible to the workforce. Time and motion studies overlap with layout adjustments because they both want to optimize the output of activities. By changing the layout of the machinery, the needed time, and motion reduces. Cellular manufacturing means that machines and equipment combine to reduce walking time and distance. Searls (2017) elaborates on cellular construction, mentioning that it is also called continuous product flow, which recognizes that every production stage has to be in a smooth correlation with adjoining stages in a bid to achieve maximum efficiency.
Comparison of Operational Excellence approaches
Lean is comparable to other operation excellence approaches such as Total Quality Management (TQM), International Organization for Standardization (ISO), Theory of Constraints (TOC), and Six Sigma. Taylor (n.d) gives an overview of the comparison of the four operational excellence methods in terms of focus. TQM focuses on making improvements to operations. TQM aims at creating an organizational culture of high-quality goods and service production. The Theory of Constraints focuses on improving the weakest links in processes, thus increasing the throughput of quality products and services. Six Sigma's focus is on the elimination of defects through the reduction in process variation while centering performance on a particular target. Bakator et al. (2018) explain that ISO's focus is on the improvement of processes in an organization through customer satisfaction via high-quality services and goods. Lean, on the other hand, focuses on value addition.
Although the operational excellence approaches contrast in many aspects, they all emphasize on reduction and value addition—lean advocates for production of goods and services that add value to the customer while eliminating waste. Six Sigma seeks to enhance performance through defect reduction. TQM emphasizes improvement, which reflects the cutting on unnecessary things in a bid to produce quality goods. Quality depicts value addition. The theory of constraints improves weak links, i.e., eliminates the weakness in the production process and replaces it with a functional connection, and the result is quality products. ISO seeks to fulfill customer's desires through quality services and goods, which is possible if production processes are improved, and that is through eliminating or reducing the weaknesses and bottlenecks.
Six Sigma TQM Theory of Constraints ISO
Compared to Lean-In terms of elimination/reduction Defect elimination Limits errors in production processes Reduces operating expenses and inventory Reduces work pressure on staff members
Contrasted to Lean –In terms of focus Perfect performance Continuous improvement Constraint management in the process Customer satisfaction
A Vision Statement Supporting Lean
The selected organization for this study is Unilever, whose vision states that "to make sustainable living commonplace. We believe this is the best long-term way for our business to grow." This vision statement emphasizes consumer sustainability and reflects on company growth, maintaining success in the global market for consumer goods. Lean is all about value delivery as per the consumer while striving to attain and maintain efficiency with continuous improvement without wastage. Unilever's vision statement is mindful of the customer's wants and desires, just like lean require. Delivery of goods as per the customer's perspective since Unilever intends to sustain customers. The vision statement of Unilever also touches on company growth; hence, it is lean in that manner. The advocating for company growth shown in Unilever's vision statement translates from continuous improvement, which is a critical concept of lean. In terms of waste elimination as expected for any lean enterprise, Unilever's vision suggests the existence of such a characteristic in the firm because growth is a process that requires more value addition and no dead weight.
Lean Approaches and Organizational Change
Organizational change is a process that requires all members of a firm to have the same thoughts for its efficient implementation. Lean can be an excellent method of managing change in an organization. Tsasis and Barrett (2008) deemed lean as the right approach in change management considering the involvement of a productive work streamline and continuous improvement culture. Creating a culture of continuous improvement requires the absence of resistance, and through lean, employees' concerns are taken into account, toning down any opposition. Tsasis and Barrett (2008) described resistance as a significant limitation for any desired project since objectives are unachievable, and there is a risk of change abandonment. Through lean thinking, staff members can comprehend the rationale behind the desired change since the communication of objectives is clear to everyone. Tsasis and Barrett (2008) revealed that Sick Kids Hospital involved staff members in the decision-making process. The hospital also provided sessions where employees could voice their concerns, vent their frustrations, and share their criticism. Through discussions of how anticipated changes could affect them and encouraged dialogue, a culture of openness formed. It is easy to organize employees in a streamlined workflow if they are all in agreement with the change of plans. A culture of transparency evolves to a norm of continuous improvement hence enabling effective change.
Bakator, M., Boric, S., & Petrovic, N.(2018). Differences and similarities between total quality management, iso 9001, lean production, and Six Sigma. International Journal "Advanced Quality," 46(1), 17-20. https://www.researchgate.net/publication/324448944_DIFFERENCES_AND_SIMILARITES_BETWEEN_TOTAL_QUALITY_MANAGEMENT_ISO_9001_LEAN_PRODUCTION_AND_SIX_SIGMA
Cornelissen, R.(2013). What are the main challenges when implementing lean and how do industry and company characteristics influence these challenges? [Bachelor thesis, Wageningen University]. https://edepot.wur.nl/286448PWC.(n.d.). ISO 9001, Lean, TQM, and Six Sigma –same or different? https://auditortraining.pwc.com.au/iso-9001-lean-tqm-six-sigma-different/
Searls, D.(2017, September 26).The elements of lean manufacturing. Bizfluent. https://bizfluent.com/info-12305444-elements-lean-manufacturing.html
Taylor,C.(n.d.). Comparing improvement methods. Arizona State University. https://service.asu.edu/blog/comparing-improvement-methods
Tsasis, P., & Barrett, B. C.(2008).Organizational change through lean thinking. Health Services Management Research, 21(3), 192-198. https://www.researchgate.net/publication/51421680_Organizational_change_through_Lean_Thinking
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