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 introduced standards
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.
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. The customer can choose their engine, colour, trim, options, etc. The process produces custom products.
Foundation for generational change
Lean Manufacturing is built on the progress of Mass Production. Lean keeps the standard components, but allows for diversity. The 2nd generation standard process based on command-and-control gave way to a 3rd generation team-based approach, where each team standardises work at its work station. Lean drives ever higher efficiency, and allows for flexibility. Lean is flexible – a lean factory can produce multiple products from one factory.
To achieve flexibility, the factory uses routings. Each product is potentially different; each needs to be produced with a different series of steps, at different workstations. This series of steps is called a routing.
The power of the routing is to link up standard steps. Each step is standardised. Each step can be optimised locally by the workstation team.
So routings deliver the combination of standardisation and flexibility.