"You must be kidding... Make One... Move One?"

By Philip M. Hall

The aforementioned title is a remark made to me, at a presentation on an Overview on Lean Concepts, by a potential client who manufactures to a forecast and carries four months of raw material and finished goods in stock. It was prompted by a presentation visual that stated "Make one...Move One... and then only to a real customer order." The customer's remark is typical of the kind of attitude found with today's traditional manufacturers, in-house or otherwise, as they become exposed to 'Lean Concepts'.

"You can't make one and move one to a customer demand in my business," one local president commented. "Are you nuts? It has no place in my industry or in my shop and certainly no place in my mind. This idealistic, pie-in-the-sky, unrealistic stuff is a waste of time. I run a job shop catering to the automotive industry and their mix is always changing. I never know what they're going to order from one week to the next so I have to carry finished goods to meet their JIT requirements. There's no other way."

Is that so! The chances are that if you don't have any competition for this work now... you soon will have... and if that competition goes to Lean Thinking, you'll change your business culture or put up the Going-Out-Of-Business sign.

What manufacturing needs to understand is that there is a way to produce to customer demand regardless of mix, quantity, or product. And when that point is communicated, most times you get the Missouri answer, "You bet, now show me."

Traditional management has the most difficult time with Lean Thinking. Primarily, because it requires a level of change, that, in many cases, the business owner, the CEO, or the plant manager, cannot or will not make. The dynamics usually revolve around a business philosophy or thinking that focuses on:

  • Management is always right
  • Decisions should be made at the top
  • The caste system of hierarchy needs to be maintained
  • Don't make mistakes
  • Get the job done any way you can
  • Punish the losers and reward the winners
  • Don't bring me bad news

This type of thinking is so ingrained in the day-to-day mindset of operations within the manufacturing environment that the top guy simply can't deal with it. He can't accept the fact that:

  • The people who do the work, know it best
  • Once it's fixed, forget continuous improvement
  • Inventory is evil, forecasting is a guess, (once you write it down you know it's wrong, you just don't know by how much or in which direction) and that �make one...move one' is the best possible process.

Adults learn best by doing. One excellent method of demonstrating the success of the Lean Thinking process, is through an inter-active simulation which demonstrates the Lean concepts... all the concepts. This practice is routinely encouraged when the suspicion of resistance exists, especially with the ownership of the enterprise. The simulation technique inter mingles the real world with the lean world. Traditional management begins the process and by days' end enlightenment and conversion has occurred. It is possible:

  • Not to overproduce
  • Make parts without defects
  • Make parts without unnecessary motion or transportation expense
  • Define processes and set it up using the intelligence, brains and input of the people
  • Reduce inventory
  • Manufacture to the actual demand of the customer and provide it through a process of continuous flow, make one...move one.
  • Just-in-Case logic is gone
  • Miss-use of automation minimized or eliminated
  • Workloads can be balanced and produced to a calculated TAKT
  • No more unnecessary forecasts or customer needs misunderstood

The Lean Thinking process works... and it works most everywhere when top management makes it happen. Unless top management "buys-in" and provides the leadership needed, you can Kaizen yourself �til the cows come home, but until such time, the Lean enterprise will never exist. You'll never �make one...move one'.

Philip M. Hall is a Senior Technical Specialist for the South Florida Manufacturing Technology Center in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. Mr. Hall has managed manufacturing operations for over 30 years. He is helping small and medium sized South Florida manufacturers improve their profitability and increase their cash flow through Lean Manufacturing and other improvement techniques. A long time senior Member of the Society of Manufacturing Engineers, Mr. Hall has written and presented technical papers at SME and NMTBA national conferences and expositions, implemented ISO 9000 programs, as well as building, manning and equipping several new manufacturing facilities nationwide.