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Rick Pay, in a 2008 article, examined the IndustryWeek / MPI Census of Manufacturers published in late 2007 and surprisingly found that a mere 2% of respondees considered their lean programs had fully met their objectives. Rick Pay also found 74% of those responding were of the opinion that they had not made any significant progress post the implementation of lean systems. Pay, R., 20081


Considering the investment of time, money and resources by organisations on the implementation of those programs, it is shocking to discover that 74% of those manufacturers surveyed considered their implemented lean programs to have not delivered any significant progress. To understand why those programs did not deliver, we must first understand what it was that they thought they were buying into and what state they expected to achieve on the implementation of lean methodologies and processes. Jeffery Liker and Mike Rother discuss this misunderstanding in their 2011 article, “Why Lean Programs Fail” Liker, J. et al., 20112.

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From their experiences, Liker and Rother were of the view that “we mistook lean solutions for the process that leads to what we see in a Toyota plant” and that there was a difference between implementing lean solutions to achieve continuous improvement and practising routine to achieve continuous improvement. This difference, they considered to be, behaviour Liker, J. et al., 20113. Interestingly, Rick Pay, through his experiences as a lean practitioner, is of the opinion that there are four key reasons why company programs fail. Number two on Rick’s list, “…unwilling to accept that cultural change is often required for Lean to be a success” Pay, R., 20084


We now understand that the chances of a successful lean implementation are improved through the changing of the organisational culture and the embedding of behaviours and habits. It is therefore of no surprise to find in the world of self-help a book authored by Stephan R. Covey entitled, “The & Habits of Highly Effective People”.


From my own experiences, having only recently joined a company within the Pharmaceutical Industry, I would consider the embedding of lean behaviours, habits and cultural to be key in the achievement of long term success. The site on which I am now based began their “Lean Journey” approximately two years ago. As someone new to the plant, it looks and feels like it has always been there. Visual management is a very obvious example. Each group within the business has a morning PSQDC (People, Safety, Quality, Delivery, Cost) meeting. These meetings last no more than 10 minutes and follow set questions over the course of the week. Meetings are staggered with information being fed up to the last meeting of the morning, Senior Management. Each meeting has a number of visual charts showing the live status. In passing through any area of administration, engineering, quality, production or utilities the status of batches, issues, continuous improvements, projects etc. can be readily visually determined. All activities onsite are aligned with site strategic goals and managed via the “Tactical Implementation Plan”. The rollout of the various lean tools has been iterative with each new toll allowed a period of time to embed before improving it and / or introducing new tools. The following are some of the tools now in use.


·         Visual management

·         5S

·         Kaizen

·         Gemba

·         KPIs

·         Tactical Implementation Plan

·         Plan Do Check Act

·         Root cause analysis

·         A3

·         8D

·         PSQDC


What is also very noticeable, from the perspective of someone new to site, is the level of buy in at Senior Management. The often complete 5S walks and Kaizen events to help maintain site focus. A specialist practitioner has been engaged by the site to develop and roll out the programs as well as provide facilitator and yellow belt training. Again the output from the yellow belt training projects is posted and highly visible for all.


I believe that given the commitment currently exhibited onsite, there is a strong chance that the adoption of lean principles will deliver the desired benefits and that there is also the recognition that we are jogging a marathon and not sprinting a 100m dash.


One foot in front of the next = continuous improvement.

1 Pay, R., 2008. Everybody’s Jumping on the Lean Bandwagon, But Many Are Being Taken for a Ride. Industry Week online. Available at: Accessed 21 Jan 2018

2 Liker, J. and Rother, M., 2011. Why Lean Programs Fail. Lean Enterprise Institute, pp. 1-5

3 Liker, J. and Rother, M., 2011. Why Lean Programs Fail. Lean Enterprise Institute, pp. 1-5

4 Pay, R., 2008. Everybody’s Jumping on the Lean Bandwagon, But Many Are Being Taken for a Ride. Industry Week online. Available at: Accessed 21 Jan 2018

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