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Tailoring Lean: Is it Necessary?

Friday, July 22nd, 2011 : 0 Comments

One of the common myths we hear is “Toyota’s Lean techniques should work in all industries without adaptation.”

This statement is not completely false – only part of it is.

There is some truth in: “Lean techniques will work in all industries” but that is definitely not the case “without adaptation.” Companies decide to implement Lean processes for various reasons. Different scenarios require different implementations.

During the 1990s, when Lean started to spread beyond the automotive industry, there were many who questioned the “right” way to apply it. Many Lean purists felt that the Toyota method was the only way to implement Lean, no matter what the product. This led to failures when techniques like Kanban were inappropriately applied in high-mix and make-to-order manufacturing companies. Over time, we’ve realized that the Toyota process can work in non-automotive companies, it just depends on the implementation. The correct way to implement is to identify Lean principles using techniques that are appropriate for the product. For example, when implementing the Lean principle of Pull, companies can utilize Kanban for high-volume make-to-stock parts, while utilizing other pull methods like CONWIP for high-mix and/or make-to-order parts.

It is close to impossible to use a cookie cutter approach when applying Lean, especially in high-mix environments. Before tackling Lean, companies need to review their business models and determine a unique strategy that will produce their desired results.

Did you previously think that Lean techniques could work in all industries without proper adaptation? Let’s discuss!

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