Frequently Asked Questions

Q: Is there a difference between Lean Manufacturing and the Toyota Production System (TPS)?
A: If you ask 10 different lean consultants or practitioners, you're likely to get 10 different answers to this one. However, at OpEx Leadership we use the terms interchangeably. 'Lean' was a term first used by James Womack and Daniel Jones in their 1990 book The Machine That Changed the World to describe what they had observed during their research of Toyota and other world-class manufacturers. Regardless of what you call it, the goal is to eliminate waste and build a system that drives improvement at every level of an organization.

Q: What can we gain from implementing Lean in our organization?
A: Implementing Lean can have positive effects on virtually every performance indicator in your organization. Here are some typical results:
  • Lead times reduced by 75% or more
  • Labor hours per unit improved by 30-70%
  • Inventory reductions of 60%+
  • Equipment uptime increases of 30+ percentage points
  • Quality performance improvements of 50% or more
Please see our White Papers, Case Studies, and Articles to learn more. More case studies will be posted in the coming weeks, so please check back often.

Q: What is meant by the phrase 'Lean Transformation'?
A: A 'Lean Transformation' is more than implementing lean tools and methods. A successful Lean Transformation also includes teaching and coaching lean leadership skills, putting methods in place that drive daily employee contribution, developing problem solving skills in all levels of the company, and changing everyone's mindset to pursue a common vision of a self-sustaining, continuously improving organization. In addition to rolling out the time-honored Lean Tools & Methods, an effective Lean Transformation plan also includes Gemba Leadership Development, Performance Transparency and Visual Management Techniques, Organization Development for Lean, all supported by an effective Change Management Program.

Q: How long does a Lean Transformation take?
A: Depending on the size of your organization, a Lean Transformation can take months or even years. However, you can start seeing significant improvements very quickly in the transformation process as your organization immediately starts to learn and eliminate waste. With brownfield transformations, many organizations start with a model area or value stream and focus their Lean Transformation activities there. This approach not only leads to a quicker return on effort, but also creates a reference that speeds up the transformation process as it's taken to other areas of the organization.

Q: Does OpEx Leadership also perform Kaizen Events or Lean Tools & Methods training?
A: Yes. As our Lean Tools & Methods training modules are developed to include hands-on worksite activities whenever possible, they are an integral part of the transformation process. In addition to driving employee involvement and rapid performance improvement, Kaizen Events can be used to generate 'quick wins' that can convince employees, managers, and executives to support a Lean Transformation.

Q: I've read that Lean is focused on improving efficiency while Six Sigma is the approach to improving quality. Is this the case?
A: Again, asking different consultants or practitioners yields different answers. At OpEx Leadership, our approach is based on what we've learned from experiences at Toyota: After safety, the quality of the product or service is the highest priority. OpEx Leadership helps clients improve their quality performance through employing and teaching data-driven problem solving methods, ranging from A-3 Thinking to Statistical Process Capability (Cp, Pp) Improvement to Zero Quality Control principles such as Pokayoke and Source Inspection. In short, a significant part of developing an efficient, waste-free process is eliminating defects and producing only quality goods and services.

Q: Can Lean Manufacturing and ERP systems such as SAP work together?
A: Yes, they can, and since ERP systems are present in nearly every organization, they must integrate. The basic principles of Lean Manufacturing (establish flow, eliminate waste, produce and deliver to the takt time-based customer demand, minimize and control all inventories, etc.) must still be applied when designing manufacturing and supply chain processes. Afterward,  the integration of ERP system transactions into the process must be simple, robust, and applied in a way that minimizes non-value added activities.

Q: We are a smaller volume, high complexity manufacturer. Can Lean still help us?
A: It certainly can. Lean can help you identify and eliminate waste that exists in all processes, help you gain greater control of inventories and resources, and reduce lead times by improving flow in your processes, among other things. Further, by making performance more transparent to everyone and increasing employee contribution, you can make kaizen (continuous improvement) an everyday part of your business.

Q: How does OpEx Leadership support Lean Transformations?
A: The OpEx Leadership approach to Lean Transformation is unique in its combination of time-honored Lean tools and methods, a hands-on approach to training and implementation, and a focus on sustainability. From the outset of our projects, improvement targets in Quality, Productivity, Lead Time, and/or Cost are defined (based on client needs), the right methods and tools selected and trained, and the project planned and implemented using a team-based approach. What sets OpEx Leadership apart is the focus on sustainability throughout the lean transformation. OpEx Leadership Lean Transformation projects achieve sustainable results through applying proven change management techniques,transparent 'Gemba' (shop floor based) performance management, and organization design principles that focus on developing a top-to-bottom problem solving organization. Click here to read more...

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