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No-No’s of Lean Operations

Continuous improvement is as much about not going backward as it is about making progress. Knowing what to avoid is as important as knowing what to do. While many of the items on this list of No-No’s won’t derail your Lean efforts, they do act as speed bumps that slow down progress. Improvement resources are in short supply. Make sure they are not wasted on known obstacles.

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Many companies have some outstanding results on individual Lean projects, yet fail to make significant advancement. Part of this is due to the lack of ‘stickiness’ of the improvements. But part is due to the subtle activities and situations in a facility that are contrary to continuous improvement principles.

As companies evolve in their Lean efforts, they tend to start avoiding certain practices that make progress more difficult. In most cases, these No-No’s are not compiled in a list form, but are embedded in a variety of processes. An explicit list, though, can be handy as a general reminder (i.e. posted on a wall) or as a specific checklist to use during kaizen activity.

Sample List of Lean No-No’s

  1. No throwing money at problems in kaizen. Use brains rather than dollars to solve problems. Improvement does cost money, but brainpower can yield substantial returns.
  2. No finding solutions in catalogs. Catalogs provide general solutions. You need specific solutions.
  3. No roots. Don’t lock things to the floor. Kaizen will happen again. The less effort it takes, the more likely people will be to make necessary changes. Mobility and flexibility make improvements easier.
  4. No tethers. Nothing permanent hanging from the ceiling that has to be relocated. Make power and air drops flexible.
  5. No tall things blocking vision. Make the workplace visible. Set a height limit on shelving and workstations.
  6. No heavy lifting.
  7. No new A or B parts added without being on kanban.
  8. No cranes. Hard to adjust.
  9. No drawers in administrative work areas. Work hides there.
  10. No cubicles for production teams. Limits communication.

Creating a list of No-No’s for use in your company is a good exercise in clarifying your culture. Culture change, though, happens when behaviors are shaped. Explicitly listing things that are not acceptable in your organization drives behaviors that keep people on the Lean path. And even if you don’t have the resources to eliminate all the existing waste on the list of No-No’s, it will have a deterrent effect. It will reduce the number of new wasteful activities that are added to your organization.

Also keep in mind that part of driving continuous improvement is the sales pitch. You have to sell the concepts to the team to get them on board. Put this list up on posters, and display them prominently.

The war on waste is one of attrition. Everything you can do to focus attention on eliminating it helps. 

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