Lean manufacturing consultancy: an outsider’s view.
A few weeks ago I took on a marketing role with EMS Cognito and decided the best way to understand what we do is to spend time with our consultants working with customers. The opportunity of a trip to Bulgaria comes up and I take it. I have no experience of Lean manufacturing consultancy and until recently I thought lean was something people go on a diet to achieve! Actually, I can now see that lean manufacturing isn’t that different from losing weight. Both methods of getting and maintaining lean are a lifestyle, not just something to be followed for a few months and then reverting to the old ways. Finding out about Lean Manufacturing is interesting!
EMS Cognito has been working with Montupet on their lean journey. Montupet, a French-owned industrial group specialising in the design and production of complex cast aluminium parts for the automotive industry, wanted a Kaizen Workshop for one of their Production lines and EMS Cognito consultant Matt Gilson went to help them.
What is Kaizen?
I discovered Kaizen is a Japanese term meaning “change for the better”. Kaizen events are short duration improvement projects with a specific aim for improvement; typically they are week-long events led by a facilitator.
Gain commitment and understanding from management
I could see how important it is for the senior management team to be fully behind the process and to be involved. Failure to get their commitment would lead to mediocre results that are almost certain to slip back. The Montupet Management Team showed total commitment and trust in the workforce to make this process a success.
Why use a Consultant?
As I discovered, for a kaizen event to be successful you need someone to lead and facilitate the event; someone experienced in lean techniques and philosophies and who is experienced in running these types of events. A good facilitator can help the team to stay on track and pull them in the right directions to achieve the best possible results. Watching Matt lead the team I could see how he did just that, allowing them time to come up with ideas and solutions themselves and not rushing the process by making all the suggestions himself.
Who takes part?
The team were predominantly members of the area in which the kaizen event was being carried out plus a few additional people from other production lines. They could see things from a different angle and had a lot to contribute.
What did I learn?
I came away from a couple of days on this Kaizen workshop feeling inspired by and excited for the workforce on this team. I could see that being allowed to come up with ideas and have them implemented would result in an operator being proud of his work station and happier in his day, resulting in more efficient production. What surprised me most was how the mixture of Bulgarian and French people with an English trainer and sometimes no translator, had no communication barriers.
I want to return to Montupet to see the results of the Kaizen Workshop but in the meantime, I am keen to spread the word about Lean and how it can be implemented to improve every aspect of our lives. I am starting with my kitchen cupboards!