It is generally accepted knowledge that a lean manufacturing pull system uses both FIFO lanes and supermarkets to manage the material and information flow. However, there are few guidelines on when to use a supermarket and when to use a FIFO lane. This post is the first of a two-part series that will give ten general rules of thumb for when to use a supermarket instead of a FIFO lane. The second post will go into more detail about the ten rules.
Throughout the history of industry, there has been a constant conflict between managers and subordinates. For some reason, we just don’t get along well with each other. Or, as philosopher Jean-Paul Sartre phrased it, “Hell is other people.” In fact, large advances in mechanization and automation were due to managers wanting to take power away from workers or to get rid of workers altogether.
Toyota with its Toyota Production System is the archetype of lean manufacturing, which also makes it to one of the most successful companies on earth. This success is due to outstanding cooperative management at Toyota; however, recent changes in hiring practices threaten the Toyota Production System.
The concept of lean manufacturing originated on the shop floor at Toyota. Since then it has expanded into many other areas, including but not limited to lean healthcare, lean administration, lean logistics, lean services, lean hotel, lean military, lean banking, or any lean whatever topic. There is even a lean government, albeit I am somehow skeptical on that one. Even so, most practitioners of lean work in manufacturing. Hence it comes as no surprise that most lean efforts are focused on the shop floor. However, while there is usually much improvement potential on any given shop floor, it is not necessarily the area you most want to improve.
In the West, the standard approach for problem solving is to take a good look a the problem, after which a solution approach will pop into someone’s head. This approach is then optimized until the problem is solved. However, while this often ends up with one solution, it usually is far from the best solution possible. In Japan, a very different multidimensional problem-solving approach is common. Rather than just use any solution that solves the problem, they aim for the best solution they can find.
Standardization, visual management, and process confirmation are some important elements of lean manufacturing. Here we have an example many of you are probably familiar with – toilet paper folding at hotels. This simple example can clearly demonstrate the value of Standardization, visual management, and process confirmation.
Ancient Romans already knew how to manage their people. For example, the Drusus Stone monument in Mainz demonstrates the importance of keeping your people both busy and motivated.