Over the past three decades, the global Lean & Operational Excellence teams, together with their colleagues in the plants, have been able to achieve significant productivity gains. The captivating thing about these methods is their simplicity. Many lean managers still swear by pen and paper, and for good reason. Recording data manually has a significant impact on the mindset of the person recording the data. Simply capturing waste on the shop floor provides improvement. However, traditional lean methods have exhausted much of their potential. Digital technologies for production are coming onto the scene under the banner of “Industrie 4.0,” promising the next big wave of productivity improvement. What does this mean for the future relevance of lean organizations? How can they stay true to their methods and actively shape the digital transformation?
The answer to these questions comes from observing a crucial phenomenon of tech-oriented companies: technology infatuation. In recent years, many companies have seen digital transformation as a primarily technical project. Millions have been invested in technically ambitious projects whose added value is questionable. One example of such a project, are the many “predictive maintenance” prototypes. Although unplanned machine downtimes are by no means always the biggest problem in a factory, considerable sums are invested in these complex pilot projects.
In our more than 150 transformation projects, we have found that lean teams are usually the best people to counteract this. They do not focus on technology, but on the big levers to avoid inefficiencies and increase productivity in the factory. Global lean organizations are thus the ideal starting point for a scalable transformation of factories.
The digital transformation team and lean management should thus not work in isolation, but as a unit. Lean experts know very well what the needs are in the factories, where the main waste is taking place and where the potential lies. For the technology experts, this is central input for focusing on the right, value-creating technologies. The positive side effect: this breaks down the resistance to change that is often seen in the factories.
Let me give you an example: Concrete initial projects in the collaboration between lean and technical digitization teams often focus on the topic of “transparency”. The manual collection of key production metrics (e.g., the OEE , downtime reasons and duration , quality costs) are automated with the help of automated data collection at the plants and cloud-based data platforms. Lean teams will be trained in visualization and business intelligence solutions. Digital dashboards are used in daily shop floor meetings and for regular reporting. In this flexible set-up, employees can independently create reports that best support their work. Such a combination of data provision and flexible visualization options is receiving a lot of attention today under the term “data democratization”.
The lean management unit can become the protagonist of the digital transformation in the factories and globally. The existing knowledge can be brought in excellently and the transformation can be focused on the relevant problems. Through the Digital Transformation, Lean is experiencing a renaissance.
We look forward to good discussions with you and invite you to shape your Digital Lean approach with us.