Auburn Works

Auburn Technical Assistance Center (ATAC)

Lean Implementation– People, Planning & Problem Solving

When beginning the Lean journey, several factors for selection and training must be taken into consideration or the results of the journey risk compromise.


1. Planning -- Training isn’t a budget line-item. It’s a pathway to success!
Training is discussed, it’s budgeted for, but often it’s never implemented. When business is good and operations are busy, management struggles to commit time for training. When business is poor and operations are slow, management won’t commit to training because of poor cash flow. The bottom line is that there’s never a great time to train, because there’s never a time when cash is plentiful and time is plentiful. To develop a learning culture within the employees of a manufacturing firm, training must be viewed as a pathway to success rather than a discretionary budget item.
Training in a Lean company isn’t optional. It’s required for continuous improvement.
2. People - Managers and supervisors are expected to be facilitators & coaches.
A major human resource challenge occurs during the Lean journey. The leaders of the organization, many of whom may be most comfortable dictating instructions and orders to their reports will now be required to facilitate discussions and seek feedback on operational practices in order to optimize performance. The best leaders are those who can elicit constructive dialogue from their team members, evaluate the team members knowledge and thought process and coach according to the situation.  Improved process flow is a team sport.
3. Problem Solving -- The ability to see problems, envision solutions and adapt to change is a basic job requirement for all positions.
When interviewing candidates for a manufacturing environment, there’s a tendency to focus on past employment history, skilled trade status, years of experience and the recommendations of a few past supervisors. Manufacturing management seeks to identify the level of technical skill for the individual. Unfortunately, it is exceedingly rare that management assesses the ability of applicant staff to evaluate situations, identify problems and formulate solutions and work with a team. These skills should be considered as important as knowing which wrench to use or how to wire a circuit. Ultimately, these skills will provide management with grass-roots knowledge of process deficiencies and solutions that will work.


As the Lean journey is either started or continued at your manufacturing firm, please consider not only the financial aspects of improvement, but the necessary human resources infrastructure and process development that is needed in order to be successful.

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