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Artisan Process

An artisan process is one that relies on the skills of workers over strong processes. In the past, artisans were held in extremely high regard. This was primarily due, though, to the lack of a reasonable alternative to obtain high quality goods.

Modern production processes and the sophistication of products, coupled with the ever increasing expectation of quality, have driven a shift away from artisans and towards process-driven processes.

Production that relies on the skill and attention to detail of a worker are doomed to fail in the modern competitive environment. Granted, there are some artistic, one-off processes that may be suited to personal skill, such as commissioned portraits or sculptures. But by and large, if your repetitive production process is relying on the judgment of skilled workers, you have a tremendous opportunity for improvement.

Strong processes, well-designed tools, meticulous maintenance, and relentless improvement trump the non-repeatability of artisans.

Now, when people think of artisans, the image of a silversmith or watchmaker come to mind. In modern manufacturing, artisan processes creep into machine shops where there is only one person who can ‘dial in’ a piece of equipment to get good parts, or in a finishing area where only a handful of people can seem to apply decals properly.

Artisan production hurts companies because…

  • It tends to be slower than well-designed processes
  • It tends to produce more defects than well-designed processes
  • There is a greater risk of losing capabilities when one of the artisans leaves the company
  • The learning curve can be extremely long


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