Over 20 years ago, I struck out to help companies improve their operations through best practices based on lean manufacturing and industrial engineering practices. Helping hundreds of companies improve their operations has been an extremely rewarding experience. After the 35 years I have been in this industry, the one constant I have found is that we can continuously learn what is best from successful people and companies. One clear sign of the best-performing companies is they embrace a continuous improvement philosophy, where they firmly believe that what they have been doing is never good enough. They always strive for improvement in every area regardless of current and past performances.
Kaizen is the philosophy of continuous improvement that originated in Japan and that every company should embrace. Regardless of whether someone has decades of experience, here are three key aspects your company should embrace to continuously enhance its overall performance.
All departments – sales, design, manufacturing, and admin – can be improved with these strategies:
- Learn, embrace, and implement lean manufacturing principles in an easy-to-follow and practical manner to improve every area.
Too often, the management team gets lost in the weeds of the terminology of lean principles and needs help understanding how to make it work for them in a practical way. The lean principles can be simplified and made practical to use daily. No matter your employees' skill level, they can all be given easy-to-follow methods for implementing lean principles that will make a real positive difference daily within your company.
- Learn, embrace, and implement industrial engineering practices.
Lean principles are not the same as industrial engineering practices and should not be considered a substitute for proper industrial engineering practices. Proper material flow, equipment needs, efficiencies, work scheduling, proper margin understanding, and so many other aspects of the manufacturing process can cost or make hundreds of thousands of dollars for your company. I cannot tell you of a single client who was not helped significantly when their operation embraced some aspect of the tools of proper industrial practices.
- Overcome the #1 obstacle to implementing enhancements: ego/pride.
Too often, it is ego/pride that blinds us to see that change is needed, or if we do indeed recognize the changes needed, our pride prevents us from admitting it. Also, the change may be viewed as a threat to protecting one’s perceived power and influence. Change may require responsibility shifts and realignment. Therefore, people will perceive it as a threat to their area of authority. If we perceive it as, “We were wrong, and they were right,” this idea of wrong/right will prevent us from listening to others and is an absurd way of viewing life. What worked in the past was a good thing, but we need to evolve to meet the challenges of today.
The one thing we can all count on is that change is inevitable. The housing markets will remain far more vulnerable to significant challenges in the coming years. Software, equipment, and vendors are constantly evolving and must be continuously updated. The competition is only getting more competitive. How your company adapts to the continuous challenges is totally in your hands. We can all learn from the most successful companies by embracing continuous improvement using lean manufacturing principles, industrial engineering practices, and not letting our ego be the number one barrier.