What is Lean3?
Part 2 of 5 : The Lean Factory
Lessons from Lean Manufacturing
3rd Generation Lean Manufacturing is transformational. It is efficient but flexible, driving constant improvements in productivity and quality.
There are big differences between the world of the factory and the world of Project Management. But by understanding Lean Manufacturing, we can learn lessons for Project Management and imagine a Project Factory to industrialise our Project Management.
1st Generation Production was craft based
The 1st Generation of Production was craft based. Skilled craftsmen, such as smiths, carpenters or carriage makers produced low-volume products, often custom products, made to the customer’s precise specification. Processes were informal, and linked to the craft skills.
2nd Generation Production: Mass Production
The introduction of Mass Production is often attributed to Henry Ford at Highland Park. When Ford pioneered Mass Production in 1910, he produced just one type of car, the model T.
Ford standardised. His standard process produced a standard product. As the famous anecdote goes, you could have any colour you wanted, as long as it was black.
2nd Generation Production was command-and-control
The efficiency of Mass Production was based on standards. It was a command-and-control approach, based on standard components, a standard process, a single standard final product.
Using a command-and-control approach, processes were defined by management (how should people work?); and metrics were focussed on volumes (how many cars produced?) rather than on quality (how many defaults? is the customer happy?)
3rd Generation Production
A century after Henry Ford’s pioneering work, an automobile factory today uses Lean Production. The modern factory is flexible. It has high productivity, producing high-quality products at a competitive cost. The modern production line is still standardised, but every car can be different.
How is this achieved?
– By focussing on quality and the customer (rather than simply on volumes)
– By optimising the flow of work through the factory
– By continuous improvement, of each process step, driven by input from the people doing the work
– By improving product design, to ensure that the product can be produced efficiently