All around the world, businesses are facing a challenge to keep up with the changes happening in their markets.

Some of them are more proactive and planning better for those changes and some of them are more reactive to them. In both cases Lean Operations implementation has been the answer for many companies to survive. When Lean Operations are implemented in the right way for the right reasons it can save a business. When applied in a proactive planned manner, it places the business ahead of the competition. When applied in a reactive manner it can save the business from going under.

All of the implementations start with good intentions and planning but why many of them fail. We will cover different reasons for failure in a series of articles.

The most important reason for lean implementation failure “The Purpose of the implementation” was covered in chapter 1Sami Caglar, Global Lean Specialist continues his examination of the reasons for lean implementation failure.

Here, we look at the second most important reason for failure;

Getting Stuck in Lean Tools.

How many professionals have you heard talking about the tools when it comes to implementation? How many of them actually talk about the philosophy of Lean, rather than tools and techniques? Too often, a lean exercise is concentrated on “picking the low hanging fruits” with either 5S or SMED.

None of the lean tools can bring you sustainable profitable growth if you lose sight of the customer.

Lean activities will usually fail to achieve their full potential if they are based on product or production focus rather than customer focus.

So what should Customer Focus really mean?

Let’s think about how customers are thinking or even better lets think about yourself as a customer…

You walk to a coffee shop and want to buy a cup of coffee.

Would you want to wait for 1 hour to get your coffee? Absolutely not. So you want it fast.

Would you pay £15 for a cup of coffee? Unless you are in a very special coffee shop and after a very special cup of coffee you would never want to pay that. So you want it good price (enough for a coffee.)

Would you drink a coffee if it tastes bad? Absolutely not. So you want good quality.

Would you like your barista to swear when he was serving your coffee? No way. So you want good customer service with a smile.

Why would your customers be different to you? It doesn’t matter what you provide all your customers are after the same characteristics; fast, good quality, good price and good customer service.

When you are implementing Lean and working with Lean tools you should always ask yourself the same question: Does this make my product or service quickercheaperwith better quality and better customer service? We have examined practices in many types of business, as you may imagine. Lean implementing companies or facilitators brag about how much money has been saved with their implementations. Surprisingly – not at all for us – their savings never appear on the bottom line. Their number of customers don’t increase, nor would they sell their products cheaper, because they have got stuck using Lean tools to show ‘savings’ for the company instead.

  • 5S should be done for SMED or increasing quality. It is not only for looking nice to visitors and managers.
  • SMED should be done only for getting quicker on deliveries by decreasing batch sizes, cost cutting is its second purpose
  • Kaizen should be done for customer satisfaction, making the value flow, it is not for management satisfaction or making the numbers work.

In future articles, we will be talking about these tools in more detail. We will look at how they need to be used differently to achieve effective results.

So please stop being product or production focused and please do not get stuck in Lean tools; keep your eye on the main goal.

Making things quicker, cheaper, with good quality and good customer service is the only way for customer satisfaction. That is the only way to create sustainable profitable growth.

If and when you become Lean, you have all the results for being able to sell more. When you are quicker, cheaper, with better quality and better customer service; you can sell anywhere and everywhere in the world. Lean is Great, Export is Great and Britain is Great.

If you want to know more about how to become lean and how to export more, please get in touch.

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