“Blame lean manufacturing.”
According to the subheadline from an August 21 Wall Street Journal article, our community is to blame for continued shortages of paper towels in the United States because of just-in-time inventory practices and the “decadeslong quest by businesses at all levels, handling many different products, to eke out more profit by operating with almost no slack.”
You’ve probably heard this all before. There are countless misrepresentations, misapplications and misunderstandings of what “lean” means. There’s the old, bad joke that “l-e-a-n stands for less employees are necessary.” There are debates over whether we should scrap the word “lean” in favor of “continuous improvement,” “operational excellence” or even its hipper abbreviation “OpEx.”
But let us be clear: lean, continuous improvement, agile, operational excellence or whatever we choose to call it, is not the problem. It is the solution.
As practitioners, you know this is true.
Lean principles and tools are the key for recovery, and can be applied to everything that ails us: supply chain, employee engagement and reengagement, safety enhancements, process improvements and so much more!
To help overcome the misperceptions, the questions remain, what do we need to do as a community and what can AME do as the leading nonprofit association for lean practitioners? If lean is to be embraced and help manufacturing, health care and other industries recover, we must first answer these questions and rise to the challenge they present.
For the latter, AME continues to advocate for lean principles through efforts like our recently published Manufacturing Marshall Plan white paper, partnerships with other like-minded organizations, our Return Stronger fundraising campaign, and through the many events we host and promote to shine a light on the benefits of continuous improvement.
The work our community does is important! But we know there is more AME can do and that all of us can do.
I invite you to register now and join me on Tuesday, September 1 as I facilitate AME’s free weekly virtual coffee break. We’ll focus our discussion on how to gain greater acceptance for agile thinking and what the lean/continuous improvement community can do to help industry rebound. Please come ready with your ideas, suggestions and the pain points you’ve faced. We’ll discuss how AME, its members and other operational excellence practitioners can bring attention to lean’s role in our recovery — globally and locally.
As always, please stay safe and keep looking out for one another.