There are many misconceptions about lean in high mix manufacturing facilities. Based on my experience, people tend to have one of two (polar opposite) misconceptions:
1) “I can apply the techniques that Toyota has made popular to my high mix environment and viola!”
This person has typically read the books, and invested time to master the concepts and techniques.
The trick is that these techniques must be adapted and modified to better match the realities of high mix manufacturing. Using a cookie cutter approach of Toyota’s techniques will not work in a high mix environment. When I talk with manufacturing professionals and they say: “Lean will work for us!” I often suggest modifications they can make to improve the implementation and the results at their facility.
2) “Since my industry doesn’t look like Toyota, Lean won’t work for me.”
This person has typically read about Lean, manufacturing excellence, Six Sigma and other leading manufacturing efficiency programs. Every industry is different – and, well, every plant is a little different, for that matter.
The philosophical teachings of Lean and what Toyota pioneered can be applied to any industry, including high mix manufacturing – with a few adaptations. The modifications don’t represent flaws in the lean methodology, nor a problem with how your facility operates.
The same Lean principles apply in high mix environments – they just need to be tweaked.
How have you adapted Lean thinking to fit at your plant?