Standard Business Roadmap

Implementation Manual






A Working environment is the collection of conditions under which a person is expected to operate.  It is desirable to improve the working environment as much as possible to ensure maximised people contributions in the elimination of waste.  Several key steps can be taken to improve the working environment:


·        Improve the communication channels


·        Obtain union support


·        Ensure payment methods are compatible with lean


·        Optimise health & safety


Improve the communication channels


Effective communication between all levels of the organisation is vital to ensure full co-operation in the lean transformation.  The transformation cannot just be a “one-way” management to workforce event.  There must be continual two-way communication between the parties.  In communication sessions, it is essential that all observations/comments are accurately captured and followed up immediately.  This avoids bad feeling from the workforce claiming “I told management and they did nothing about it”.  Examples of communication subjects for the  management and work force are:


·        Overview of the change programme, detailing the compelling need, the approach to be taken and  the likely outcomes of change.


·          Appropriate training in the lean manufacturing philosophy for those who are directly involved.


·        Regular discussion between the implementation team and the workforce to capture problems or suggestions for improvement


·        Regular meeting between the implementation team and the lean manufacturing steering committee


·          Annual reports to shareholders / Workforce on progress to date.


Obtain union support


The support of the trade unions is important from the outset because they play a major role during the introduction of “lean”.  Trade unions may initially take a belligerent stance initially against the implementation of lean manufacturing.  The following quote illustrates the unions initial perceptions of lean:

 Text Box: “Whether through benchmarking, teams, or clandestine kaizen, the outcome of management-by-stress is job reduction, on the one hand, and speed-up and job loading, on the other.  Interviews and case studies in many countries all revealed an identical tale of what happened when lean methods were introduced: substantial job elimination, with or without new technology; faster and harder work pace; and increased difficulty in handling grievances related to production or working conditions.”
Kim Moody, Workers in a Lean World, (Verso, 1997)







 In initial discussions with the trade unions, it is vital that management and unions alike recognise the cost of not introducing a lean manufacturing system – a potential loss of market share and customers’ requirements continuing to be unsatisfied.  It is also advisable to discuss the positive benefits that lean manufacturing will have on the general workforce.  These benefits improve the work environment, resulting in:


·        Increased health and safety


·        Cleaner, more straightforward working environments


·        Clear work standards and responsibilities


·        Minimised rework


·        Quick and efficient eradication of abnormalities


Unions understandably become nervous when companies begin to mention improving labour productivity.  To the unions, this translates as “producing the same, with fewer people,” implying a reduction in jobs!  This is one possible outcome, but there are alternatives to avoid this certain conflict.  Available options include:


·        Workforce reduction through natural turnover


·        Recruitment freezes (sometimes targeted at particular groups)


·        Short-time working, overtime reductions or bans


·        Re-examination of temporary staff and contractors


·        Redeployment and retraining


·        Early retirement


·        Voluntary redundancy programmes.

It is necessary to consider the long term consequences before using an alternative because some will not be sensible in all circumstances.  To avoid a potentially sensitive situation, management often issues a “no compulsory redundancy” policy as a result of the improvement activities.


Ensure payment methods are compatible with lean


Shop floor payment methods should comply with the lean manufacturing methodology enabled by maximising people contributions.  An example, piecework is not an acceptable payment system because it:


·        Complicates introduction of a robust quality system as it works against the principle of stopping a process when an abnormality occurs


·        Encourages overproduction and all other associated types of waste


·        Eliminates the ability to synchronise stages of production with customer demand, as people work at different rates.


A better alternative to piece work is a standard weekly salary, yet many organisations have attempted this change and quickly reverted back to piecework.  The shift in policy is usually due to a drop in productivity after implementation, which is inevitable unless new systems and procedures are put in place to monitor performance.  Piecework is an easier system to manage because output is controlled by the individual employee’s motivation level.  Managers must be prepared to manage, by resolving non-standard situations such as poor output, absenteeism and general lack of contribution as soon as they arise if the new payment system is to be successful.


Optimise health and safety


Employee health and safety should always be paramount on any company’s agenda.  Lean manufacturing methods support this in the following ways:


·        Focus on the shop floor worker to improve workability of the product


·        Conduct job rotation, possibly avoiding repetitive strain injuries through multi-skilling


·        Improve shop floor worker ergonomics, e.g., transforming a sitting or standing person into one that is continuously walking.





A continuous improvement culture motivates all employees to constantly improve their own working areas.  A continuous improvement culture can be created through several steps:


·        Make teamwork the norm


·        Maximise opportunities for workforce involvement


·        Ensure contributions are recognised and valued.


Make teamwork the norm


The benefits of teamwork are well documented, and the lean activity goes even further to maximise people contribution through eliminating all forms of waste from the manufacturing process. This objective is further enabled due to the typical small team sizes in lean environment, and the wide spectrum of responsibility for the team leader.


Maximise opportunities for workforce involvement


Management must harness the power of teamwork in order to truly maximise people’s contribution in the workplace.  The workforce should be given the opportunity to contribute through:


·        Focused team improvements.  Allow time within normal production hours to observe and improve the manufacturing process


·        Daily team meetings with standard agendas.  The meetings should last no longer than ten minutes and allow two-way communication to discuss items such as daily targets, problems and general communication.


·        Employee suggestion system.  This system serves as another source for continuous improvement efforts.


Ensure contributions are recognised and valued


Senior management must recognise and value the improvement efforts of the workforce.  Without recognition, the workforce may begin to revert to a more comfortable method of manufacturing by tolerating inefficiencies.  Senior management must have a visible presence on the shop floor and observe improvements first hand.  This helps foster a continuous improvement culture because people feel great pleasure from showing off their improvements.  Recognition in many cases is more valuable than actual reward.


Senior management must also create a blame-free and no-judgmental attitude with people for a lean system to be successful.  Lean aims to cut all of the “fat” out of a process by its very nature.  So, the system is intolerant towards any abnormality.  The system demands immediate corrective action whenever abnormalities are highlighted.  Management should be appreciative that the workforce highlights problems so that they can be solved at their source.  In a blame culture, the workforce would be encouraged to conceal these issues to avoid a possible reprimand.


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