One of the challenges Lean philosophies have faced is the perception that they are applicable only on the shop floor. That view, though has been under assault for some time, most notably with the rise of the Lean Office and Lean Healthcare.
Lean has not enjoyed the same inroads in project work, though. Sure, 5S and visual management is applied in this arena, but the idea that Lean is most beneficial in a repetitive production environment persists. That makes it hard to apply concepts like standard work and setup reduction.
One company recently featured in a Forbes magazine article (January 21, 2013 issue), though, provides a great example of how Lean can be applied in non-traditional situations.
The company is Project Frog, and is a designer and project manager for pre-fabbed buildings. While the article and Project Frog’s website don’t specifically mention Lean, it is clearly there.
The results look promising. They have shaved a month off the time it takes to build convenience stores, and expect to knock 8 months off a medical center. They have reduced the price tag on schools from $300 per square foot to $210. The consistency in of building in a production facility presumably will also improve quality over using a fragmented, contracted workforce operating in a variety of environmental conditions.
Now before you dismiss this article as irrelevant to your operation, consider the number of projects your company does to support even the most structured production environment. Buying and installing new machines. Conducting kaizen events. Developing fixtures. The list is endless. And many of them are done frequently enough to warrant the application of Lean.
The takeaway? Stop looking for reasons why Lean principles will not work in a particular application, and start looking for ways to use it to gain a competitive edge.
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By Jeff Hajek
February 6th, 2013
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