Why Lean Manufacturing Fails in Most Companies

There is typically a general agreement that if something has failed at almost every attempt, either something is being done wrong or it’s potentially a bad idea. Lean implementation failure rate is at least 85% of the time. Many begin to wonder why it doesn’t work and more importantly, why companies insist on attempting this type of manufacturing. In many cases, companies are desperate, extremely competitive, and most are willing to give it a try in hopes that they will experience a positive outcome. The result is typically a duplicated failure.

Lean implementation failure rate is at least 85% of the time.

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What Causes the Failure?

To be fair, there is no single answer to this question, but there are a few very bright ones. Technically speaking, lean is a thought process that involves tools and not a collection of them. For those in leadership and management positions that lack a clear understanding of the basics of these tools, failure is evident. Supplying tools to a manufacturing platform without specified mechanisms of use can be detrimental to the employee’s successful use of them.

It is essential that only the tools designed for a particular platform are used within that spectrum. You introduce tools to a company that has no knowledge of how to make them work with their process. The copycat syndrome leads to the demise of many businesses that attempt lean manufacturing. For example, tools that are designed for a particular manufacturer will rarely work for another, without incredible knowledge, skill training, and verification of compatibility.

The copycat syndrome leads to the demise of many businesses that attempt lean manufacturing.

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Deemed to Fail

Almost every company seeks ways to implement change with the process, especially during hardships. The search begins to find the means to improve profits and performance. Now more than ever, companies turn to lean manufacturing in hopes of saving or improving business. As with any projected performance enhances, there are theories and concepts associated with this adaptation. Companies are searching for positive contributions that will help make their business stronger and full of quality but what do you expect with a name like Lean manufacturing. ? In hindsight, there is a direct relation to the name as it applies to its function. Lean is all about the reduction of waste but an increase in production. Most employees dread this time because the possibility of layoffs or reduced workforce could be nearing. Many executives fail to acknowledge that lean manufacturing does not fall into place but there is a process, a method. There must be an extensive involvement of management all the way to upper-level executives to make the change an effective one.

Lean is related to manufacturing, but there is an effect on other areas of the business such as human resources, sales, research and design, customer service, administration, scheduling, finance and other departments. The lack of knowledge of how one area may be affected because of the changes implemented in another could lead to failure during the transformation process. Lean manufacturing is a process that affects the entire body of the company from head to toe. Improving the rate of production for one area, while another area still lacks the capability to package or ship those orders is a designed trail of failure in lean manufacturing. Many companies focus on a particular department or area to make lean and fail to recognize other outlets of the business that will also require the transition to make the process successful.

The Rush Approach

Lean manufacturing fails for many companies because they are eager to make improvements and move forward without conducting the proper research. They rely on what they may have heard regarding the simplicity of the lean process, which is far from true in most cases. Some companies do the research, talk to others in the industries who have incorporated lean into their business and find that it is a very aggressive approach that requires extensive preparation, in-depth knowledge, and readiness on all levels. Other companies read the big print while ignoring the small print that warns of the time needed to comprehend and sustain the necessary concepts of the process. Once understood the applications should be aligned and applied to the idea of the business. Too many companies are willing to try what’s trending in hopes of saving or improving their business. When businesses that don't put in the extra work that lean requires, usually are not completely committed to lean, and they end up failing.

There are several approaches that companies could take to make the lean manufacturing process more beneficial to their business. First, don’t allow the additional time gained from lean to lead to a work overload on employees. The addition of extra work directly causes decreased productivity increased employee stress and poor performance. Instead, collaborate with the employees to point out those necessary tasks and develop the most efficient method to accomplish them, without initiating a work overload. This will result in a greater quality of work that yields a better outcome. Not to mention, employees are pleased to know that their work and productivity is valuable to the company.

Keep in mind that a business rarely fails or starts to decline overnight. Therefore, the healing process will not take place overnight either. It is more efficient to discover the areas that are failing, research solutions and consider what needs to be done within every department of the business to make it more productive. The introduction of lean manufacturing to any business in an attempt to reduce the number of employees or increase workload without extracting waste, or primarily targets manufacturing, the process will likely be a failed attempt. There may be improvements in certain outlets but not overall, which offers no advantage to the projected goal. Lean manufacturing fails in many cases because companies seek a quick solution to the problems.

Author: Eric Raio

Eric Raio is one of the founders of Factory Solutions. When he isn't plotting new ways to create awesome software. He likes to geek out about flying drones and technology.

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