Are people or processes more important in Lean manufacturing?

When implementing Lean manufacturing in a facility most managers will notice that there is endless information about the processes used to make it a success. There is no doubt that following these processes is essential for Lean manufacturing, which can lead some people to believe that it is the processes that are most important, not the people, which includes both the employees performing labor and the end customers for whom the products are made.

Lean is Customer Focused

Lean methodologies are always customer focused, which means that people are the most important thing to consider. Eliminating waste with Lean starts by identifying what is valuable to the customers buying the product, and putting all focus on those items. The processes that are used to identify and eliminate waste are critical, but they could not properly exist without putting the customers as the first priority.

Lean Requires Empowered Employees

Lean processes also rely on empowered employees to get the work done correctly. When using Lean strategies, employees will be the ones to identify many types of waste, and they will be the ones responsible for enacting all the processes that are developed. In most situations, employees should also have the authority to stop production and halt all processes in order to identify the cause of defects or other forms of waste. This puts people above the processes when it comes to the way work is performed in any Lean environment.

Don’t Underestimate the Value of Processes

Just because it is clear that people are more important than processes in Lean manufacturing, that does not mean that processes can be ignored. Lean relies heavily on finding the best processes possible to complete specific tasks. These processes should be the focus of a lot of attention in order to maximize efficiency. A good Lean environment will emphasize the importance of both people and processes so that the end results will be extraordinary.

 

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Additional Resources

5S Lean Guide
 
Lean Manufacturing Powerpoint
 
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