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Staffing

Staffing in a Lean organization is a bit different than it would be in most other companies. First of all, in general, a Lean organization will need fewer people to do the same amount of work that is done in a non-Lean company. But there is more to it than just that. You cannot just harvest all of the gains that you make with your improvements. There are some additional requirements that come from focusing on improvement.

  • Building in improvement time: One of the things that makes a continuous improvement culture effective is that every person has some responsibility for making things better. To do act on that requirement, though they need to have time. The staffing plan for a lean organization must account for the time a person will spend working on improvement projects. For a company that is extremely dedicated to improvement, this can amount to 10% or more of the headcount that is required for production alone.
  • Plan for flexible staffing: Demand has some variation to it. It makes no sense to have a static headcount to deal with dynamic demand. Whether this is variable schedules by the day of the week or shifting people around from different workgroups, Lean staffing requires active management.
  • Problem management: Every operation will have sporadic problems, even Lean ones. There’s an old analogy about continually lowering the water level to expose problems. Even the best of processes will experience issues as you take away resources. You must staff appropriately to handle those problems. That might mean having a floater assigned to a group, or having a response team in the engineering group. Regardless of how it is done, it must be included in the staffing plan.

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