Lean manufacturing: a fashionable business idea or a way to survive

So where do you start implementing Lean? If you ask yourself this question, then either:

a) You have read one or several books (usually "Lean Manufacturing" by James Wumek [1] or "Tao Toyota" by Jeffrey Liker [2]), imbued with the successes of Japanese automakers and are eager to start implementing ideas on practice;

b) You have already tried some approaches in practice, but you have not achieved impressive results.

In either case, there are hardly any answers to all your questions. Rather, this article is a reflection of the successes and failures that the author has encountered in implementing Lean practices. I hope that the presented material will become the starting point of a dialogue in which the views of various parties will shed more light on the subject under consideration.


Whether because of the domestic mentality, which is usually attributed to failures in the implementation of lean manufacturing, or because of the desire to highlight the main thing, to catch an idea, lean manufacturing is often perceived as a set of some tools that allow you to eliminate losses that do not add value to the product. And indeed it is! This set of tools is actually defined within the lean methodology. But the trouble is that this is only a skeleton on which it is necessary to pull the "meat" - production relations. There is even a suitable word to reflect the essence of such a process - embed. Precisely, not to use, but to embed! What is the difference? There is a difference and it manifests itself in the end result of the implementation of lean manufacturing methods. The picture, which can often be observed at domestic enterprises, looks like this: a new idea - enthusiasm - an increase in the volume of work - no quick result - a gradual fading of enthusiasm - a natural desire to get rid of unnecessary work - no result at all. The structure of this chain contains the answer to the question: why are new ideas received with hostility? Let's drop the middle of the described sequence. What remains? New idea - no result! How so? Why is everything so good for Japanese companies and so bad for us? After all, the books describe in great detail the details, they show a rake that should not be stepped on! Sometimes it even seems that you are imbued with the spirit of Japanese discipline and business approach! What prevents you from using all this in practice? What prevents in reality from building that beautiful world that has already formed in your soul? With good judgment in these questions, you can already find part of the correct answer. Coming out of a deep inner worldview, you see around all the same people who solve the same problems, step on the same rake and do not want new ideas for the reason mentioned above. This is where a separate story begins. The story of embedding Lean in the minds of your colleagues. Not in industrial relations - it will be later, in due time, but in the minds and hearts of those who work with you shoulder to shoulder.

Enemies and Allies

If you have read the book "Tao T oyota" [2], which was mentioned at the beginning of the article, then you probably noticed that the presentation of the material is accompanied by a large number of examples in which extraordinary personalities play the main role, able to change the face of production, find strong solutions, lead people. Regardless of whether you are such a person or not, it should be noted that the success of your innovations will be more than half dependent on how you make people believe in the idea of ​​lean manufacturing, organize them correctly, and maintain interest in them until then. until the new operating principles become familiar to them. How to do it? Is this even possible if you don't feel charismatic enough? Let's see what is the driving force that can change the worldview of the people around you.

Ray Immelman's business novel "The Boss" [3], very well, illustrates two needs of a person as a social being - the need for security and the need to gain significance. It is under the influence of these needs that formal and seemingly simple tasks acquire a social connotation. The employee begins to try on even a clearly defined task. To what extent does this task suit him? If the task is very difficult, then there is a risk of losing its importance in the eyes of the team. If the task is too simple, then the employee may feel underestimated. If the solution to the problem can affect the position of the employee in the team, then he begins to feel a threat to his safety. The same thing happens at the moment when new trends come to the team. Everyone starts trying a new approach on themselves. The drama of this situation is that any new approach to work already makes the employee feel that his worth is under threat.

- How so! I worked so hard! And now they tell me that most of the effort is wasted! My importance, and with it my safety, is at stake! We must prove that all these innovations do not bring anything good!

With this attitude, any undertaking is doomed. Everything will follow the chain described above: a new idea - no result. Failure guaranteed!

Until recently, it was unconditionally stated that the competitive advantage of the enterprise is ensured by full automation and the use of modern equipment. At the same time, few people wondered whether an enterprise could be considered effective, where expensive equipment does not work at full capacity, the manufactured products are gathering dust in the warehouse, and the level of customer service is poor. But in the mid-80s, a new enterprise concept was born in Japan - Lean production. Gradually, these ideas became a kind of new business philosophy.

The Lean production concept, which is now recognized as one of the breakthrough approaches to management and quality management, was developed by Toyota two decades ago. As time has shown, firms that have embarked on the path of lean production are capable of approximately doubling labor productivity, reducing production space by the same amount, and reducing inventories.

Lean ideas and practices help improve organizational performance. Often it is not necessary to purchase expensive equipment, switch to new materials and technologies, completely computerize production, introduce expensive information systems, etc. All you need to do is change the culture of enterprise management, the scheme of relationships between its various levels and departments, the system of value orientation of employees. Following the principles of lean production, it is possible to systematically increase labor productivity, reduce the cost of production, and systematically reduce all types of losses. Sometimes it is enough to analyze the schedule of your working day and the conditions created in the workplace to make sure that it's time to think about the quality of work.

Am I an effective worker?

It is possible that, asking this question, you will come to overwhelmingly disappointing conclusions (in the end, the question may arise, does the company need an employee like me). You don't have to go far for examples.

Let's start small

Who among us counts how many minutes (and worse - hours) are spent on personal phone calls, searching for gifts on the Internet, smoke breaks and discussing TV shows or football matches.

Nobody thinks about how much the company costs for incoming traffic when downloading resources from the Internet. What seems unacceptable from the point of view of saving the family budget, is "shamelessly" practiced at the workplace. Who at least once didn’t say the phrase: “Yes, tomorrow I’ll get you“ 9th company ”/ I’ll download a new computer game at work, give me a disc”.

Examples of personal "negligence" of a different order

The employee just forgot to notify colleagues about the meeting of the working group on the "last minute". As a result, it took hours of working time to call each of the members of this group, to get up-to-date, send a packet of information and wait for an answer. Further, in the second round - the final coordination and joining of data from different departments. But such a problem could have been resolved in a timely manner during an hour-long meeting.

Lean Manufacturing (also known as Lean Management) is not just a separate methodology, tool or business process diagram. We are talking about a complete philosophy, the whole point of which is in the most efficient use of every resource that you have at your disposal. Switching to lean manufacturing means changing your own thinking and the thinking of each of your employees. Naturally, such large-scale transformations do not happen at the click of your fingers. Today we understand the pros and cons of the idea of ​​implementing Lean in a Russian company.


The Lean concept itself was created by Japanese engineer Taiichi Ohno, who was responsible for improving the manufacturing process at Toyota. One of the main problems of the plant in post-war Japan was the lack of resources - both material and labor. After analyzing the situation, Taiichi Ohno formulated the principles that became the basis for the Toyota production model, and then for the entire Lean concept:

  • Empowering employees;
  • Increasing productivity;
  • Reducing inventory;
  • Waste management ...

In fact, the point of lean manufacturing boils down to a simple idea: if a business process can be made cheaper, better, and faster, then it must be done. The wording is obvious, but the process of transition to a new model of work will not be obvious.

The Lean Perpetual Cycle: Lean Methodology

First of all: Lean manufacturing is never “completely finished” - you are constantly working to make business processes more and more perfect. And this work always includes exactly two key steps:

  • Analysis. Assessment of the current situation in the company. Let's take a niche of workforce that is close to us: for example, the Kickidler time tracking system gives you objective data on how efficiently your staff is working. KPI fulfillment, overwork, lateness, procrastination - you will have the most complete picture of each employee of the organization. It is this data that becomes the basis for future changes: looking at the Kickidler reports, you identify weaknesses and problems: lagging employees, departments sagging in efficiency, etc .;
  • Changes. After the analysis has been completed, you need to offer a solution for each identified problem. It does not have to be inherently perfect and will not necessarily change the whole order of work, but a step forward must be taken. A simple example: let's say in the Kickilder report on working hours you see that in one of the departments the workload is unevenly distributed - some employees work overtime, while others rest half of their working hours. To begin with, it is enough to simply redistribute several tasks in order to evaluate the results in a week or two and take the next step.

Analysis-change-analysis-change - the cycle is endless, so you can afford to move in small steps. The main goal of lean manufacturing is to make the most efficient use of each resource, so don't rush to hack: make changes slowly.

Customer Value: Lean Management Basics

The main task of the production system is to constantly improve the so-called "value stream" for the target audience. It is based on a rational combination of all processes. Thanks to this, products can be manufactured with minimal labor costs. In addition, it affects the economic indicators, as well as the results of production and economic activities of the organization, which include the cost of the product, and the profitability of production, and profit, and the size of working capital, and the volume of work in progress.

At the same time, for many organizations the most important issue is the efficiency of production processes in terms of complexity and duration of the production cycle. The longer it is, the more additional industries are involved in it, the less efficient production is in general. In addition, you have to make a lot of efforts to coordinate the process and ensure smooth operation.

It is to solve this problem that many companies are introducing a lean manufacturing system into their activities, which allows them to optimize the production process, improve the quality of the product and reduce costs. This article is dedicated to him.

What is Lean?

Lean manufacturing (in English it has two names: "lean manufacturing" and "lean production") is a special approach to enterprise management that allows you to improve the quality of work by reducing losses. Loss is understood as everything that reduces the efficiency of work. The main types of losses are:

  • Movements (unnecessary movements of equipment and operators, resulting in increased time and cost)
  • Transportation (unnecessary movements, leading to delays, damage, etc.)
  • Technology (technological flaws that do not allow to implement all consumer requirements in the product)
  • Overproduction (unsold products requiring extra costs for accounting, storage, etc.)
  • Waiting (unfinished product, waiting in line for processing and increasing the cost)
  • Defects (any defects that lead to additional costs)
  • Inventory (surplus finished products that increase the cost)

The lean manufacturing system can be implemented in design, in project management, in production itself, and even in the marketing process.

This system was developed at the turn of the 1980s-1990s by Japanese engineers Taiichi Ono and Shigeo Shingo (in general, its beginnings appeared in the middle of the 20th century, but it was adapted only at the end). The goal of the engineers was to reduce non-value-added activities throughout the product's life cycle. Thus, the system is not just a technology, but a whole management concept with a maximum production orientation to the market and the interested participation of all company personnel.

The experience gained in introducing the system (sometimes of its individual elements) into the work of various organizations has shown its effectiveness and prospects, and is currently used in various industries. If initially the system was used only at Toyota, Honda, etc. (and was called Toyota Production System), today it is found in many other areas:

  • Medicine
  • Trading
  • Logistics
  • Banking Services
  • Education
  • Oil production
  • Construction
  • Information technology

Regardless of the area in which the lean manufacturing system is used, it can significantly increase work efficiency and significantly reduce losses, even if it requires some adaptation for a specific company. This video shows how an organization can work with Lean technology.

Irina Belyaeva Specialist of the Department of Management Systems, ARB-Consulting

Lean manufacturing has been used in Russian enterprises for many years. Unfortunately, we hear most of the information about the successes or failures in its development either from the experience of foreign companies or from consultants. Perhaps that is why there is an opinion that Lean Manufacturing does not work in Russia. But what is the real situation at Russian enterprises?

To find out, we decided to speak personally with representatives of those companies that have ever claimed to use Lean Technologies. Information on the application of Lean Manufacturing was obtained from open sources: company websites, lists of conference and seminar participants.

Managers of nineteen Russian enterprises were interviewed. Eight of them use Lean manufacturing approaches, five have applied, but have refused further implementation. Representatives of two companies declined to provide information about their venture, and one manager said his company was in the process of closing.

First, about those who no longer use

Five out of 19 companies took the path of mastering Lean technologies, but abandoned this idea for various reasons:

  • did not get the quick promised effect;
  • could not cope with the resistance of the staff. When the work touched specific foremen (workers), they could not explain their personal benefits and involve them in the Lean Manufacturing process, although all management personnel were trained and fully involved;
  • could not independently continue mastering the approach after implementation by consultants several projects in different areas of production;
  • faced with the fact that behind each step was hidden an additional volume of work that was not visible before when it came to real implementation;
  • the crisis contributed to the halt of the transformations ;
  • the usual established management system has become an insurmountable obstacle to innovation, so they preferred to leave everything as it is;
  • the management did not have enough will to continue the implementation work.

Now about those who apply

Of the eight companies that are implementing Lean Manufacturing, four are in the early stages. They have only been implementing this system for the last six months. The situation is roughly the same for everyone: at this stage, managers interested in mastering the approach are faced with staff resistance. This is their main headache, despite the massive training. The resistance of the staff stops the whole process and the results are out of the question.

Two companies have been using Lean Manufacturing for three years, and have only launched some tools in certain divisions. Managers find it difficult to speak about the results or cannot evaluate the benefits of the Lean approach. However, one facility cut delivery times by 40 percent, while another cut equipment changeover times from 4 hours to 20 minutes.

Two other companies have been using Lean Manufacturing for at least seven years. They are proud of their results, making no secret of them:

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