Digital Lean – the game changer for continuous improvement

Lukas Weber

11/10/2021 12:13 PM

When I visit production sites in Germany and other high-wage countries, the competitive situation with other locations is often discussed. Mostly, it is about how new orders can be won for one's own location or how the relocation of existing products can be averted.

High-wage locations often only have good arguments if they can compensate for higher costs through continuous efficiency improvements. This is precisely why most companies have launched a series of lean activities in the past. While these are effective at the beginning, most organizations fall back into old patterns after initial euphoria. And the urgently needed sustainable efficiency improvements fail to materialize.

Lean Tools enhanced by Digital Lean

Digital Lean addresses this problem. By combining lean management with easy-to-use digital tools, the two biggest challenges of lean activities are covered: the sustainability of improvements and the consistent scaling of results across the entire organization. For this to succeed, the focus must be on day-to-day leadership and collaboration. This includes the following dimensions:

Routinized leadership

All managers in the production sites must be actively involved in problem handling, escalation and trend tracking. They are trainers of the organization and work digitally supported according to standardized routines. It is crucial that the entire area of responsibility per organizational unit and manager is presented clearly, meaningfully and with key figures that can be influenced on one page. This creates the necessary identification of the managers with the KPIs and at the same time ensures a reliable information basis.

Deviation management

Digital control provides a clear definition of targets that apply to the individual production areas. This allows target to actual values to be permanently monitored and deviations to be escalated quickly. The rapid detection of discrepancies allows timely countermeasures to be taken. “Having No Problems Is The Biggest Problem Of All” - Taiichi Ohno Furthermore, digitally determined deviation management makes it clear whether the goals set are ambitious enough. Because ultimately, true to the above quote from Toyota icon Taiichi Ohno, there is always a reason for improvement.

Sustainable problem solving

Most companies are well positioned in the definition of improvement measures. However, in many cases there is a lack of sustainable monitoring of the success of the measures. This means checking whether the implemented measure has actually eliminated the problem. By means of digitalized reporting, this comparison can be checked and visualized automatically. In the underlying database, the occurrence of the error can be evaluated before and after implementation of the measures. This makes it clear whether measures are actually effective in the long term or whether the problem continues to occur.

Ensuring sustainable results with success checks and benchmarks

Finally, Digital Lean allows the introduction of necessary success checks. These are cyclical checks to determine whether the individual sites are actually achieving the higher-level result targets, such as increasing personnel efficiency. Furthermore, horizontal and vertical benchmarks are possible, which, for example, evaluate the effectiveness and scope of improvement measures. The classic auditing of sites from lean management is thus digitally supported.

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