Question: We are a small company with approximately 150 employees, 3 manufacturing locations and 5 nonwoven processing lines. The nonwoven process is a continuous-flow process as opposed to assembly. The decision has been made to embark on a lean/continuous-improvement initiative for our company.
There is no one in our company who specifically has lean experience. Do you have any advice on the best way to begin this journey? The company is open to using outside consultants.
Answer: First, congratulations to the company's leadership for deciding it's time to embark on a lean/continuous improvement journey for the business. That's the only way these career-long, continuous improvement journeys to achieve and sustain excellence begin. They happen only when a leader stands up and says, "Enough! We have to get a lot better and that won't happen unless we change."
Not unlike many other companies who've had this epiphany, this company does not have the resources on staff to launch the journey and their reality check about needing help to get started is a real plus.
I would suggest the following things be pulled together by the senior management team:
In the space we have here I think I'll leave it at that for this time. But one of the powerful messages that I hope is jumping off the pages for those senior leaders who are contemplating starting the CI journey is this: Your early persistent leadership and then your ongoing career-long commitment and support are on the critical path to whether anything of long-lasting value ever happens. You'll get some nice short-term improvements by doing nothing more than training some key people on new, more effective tools for problem-solving. But it won't transform the business or the culture.
Everyone on the payroll will be watching to see if this is just another flash in the pan before you're on to the next thing in a year or two or whether your constancy of purpose and your personal "leap of faith" will permeate the rest of the leaders in the company and ultimately result in a companywide culture of CI. It's a career-long commitment that the CEO and the board of directors are ultimately accountable for. Should your customers and your workforce trust you on something so important to their futures and the future of the business?