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Posted March 25 2024
Written by Talan

Lean Agile: The key to operational efficiency for manufacturing companies

: Everyone in this picture is a Createch employee

In a manufacturing world constantly evolving, where the complexity of projects competes with the imperative for flexibility and shorter deadlines, companies seek solutions to optimize their processes. Rooted in the principles of Lean and Agility, this approach merges the best of both worlds to meet the typical challenges of companies, both in administrative, engineering, and production processes.

Let's dive into the origins and advantages of Lean Agile, discovering how this method can energize companies, thereby unleashing their latent potential while catalyzing the ingenuity of its collaborators.

These objectives are reconcilable, but often collide with inefficient practices.

With 30 years of experience in supporting companies wishing to optimize their manufacturing performance, Talan's experts have been able to identify the typical challenges faced by these organizations:

  • No project history
  • Incomplete or inaccessible data
  • Waste generated by changes in priority
  • Difficulties in integrating new resources
  • Poor segmentation and synchronization of work
  • Little performance tracking
  • Limited proactive management and use of specialized tools

Do these challenges resonate with you? We offer a solution precisely tailored to address these issues. Enter Lean Agile adoption—a methodology aimed at waste reduction by enhancing process efficiency, flexibility, and value orientation.

 

The Origins of Lean Agile

 

Lean Agile integrates practices stemming from the fusion of Lean and Agile management approaches. Each approach targets continuous production and process improvement uniquely.

The Roots of Lean

Originating from Toyota's 1950s production system in Japan, Lean aims to eliminate all forms of waste, enhancing quality and efficiency. 

Today, Lean leverages tools like Kanban, 5S, and Kaizen:

  • Kanban is a visual workflow management method that provides an overview of the work process and the overall workload attached to it (thanks to the implementation of its famous boards).
  • The 5S method, namely Seiri, Seiton, Seiso, Seiketsu, and Shitsuke, can be translated into English as ORDER. It aims at the continuous improvement of tasks by setting up and maintaining a clean, orderly, and efficient work environment.
  • The Kaizen approach promotes continuous process optimization by encouraging teams, through analytical techniques, to proactively solve problems.

LEAN AGILE

As standalones or combined, these tools support Lean production, which ultimately seeks a uniform workflow, by producing small batches, i.e., one product at a time - the "one piece flow" - to meet the best possible quality standards in the shortest possible time.

The Roots of Agile

The Agile approach originated in the IT sector but is now deployed well beyond, in manufacturing or service companies. It relies on a management of production that is both iterative (divided into work cycles) and collaborative thanks to continuous interaction between teams, clients, and potentially other stakeholders. The aim of this approach is to make production more adaptable to changes to quickly produce functional products.

The foundations of Agility are sanctified by 4 values and 12 principles gathered in the Agile Manifesto.

The quintessential framework of the Agile method is Scrum, a tool that organizes product development in repeating work cycles. Within each of these cycles, a single product feature is developed, tested, and evaluated. This approach allows for adapting the product according to changes in customer needs or priorities.

The birth of Lean Agile

Lean Agile brings together the best of both approaches, Lean and Agility. It combines the efficiency of the first and the flexibility of the second for continuous optimization.

The foundations of Lean Agile are simple, yet remarkably effective:

  • By relying on Lean practices, it focuses on eliminating all types of waste typical of manufacturing at all stages:
    • Avoids overproduction: by encouraging production in smaller batches based on actual customer or market demand.
    • Avoids delays on the production line: through visual management of workflows, notably by using Kanban boards.
    • Optimizes transport: by allowing continuous but controlled flow of materials through the production process, thus reducing the need to transport materials over long distances.
    • Avoids over-processing: by eliminating processing steps that do not add value to the final product.
    • Optimizes inventory: by producing only what is necessary to meet demand.
    • Reduce unnecessary movements on the production line: by proposing factory layouts and ergonomic workstation arrangements to minimize non-essential movements.
    • Reduces manufacturing defects: by implementing methods that prevent errors from the start of the process and the continuous search for improvement by teams.
  • By relying on Agility, Lean Agile brings flexibility and adaptation to production:
    • Because teams work in short iterations, delivering deliverables at regular intervals, they can adjust in real-time based on customer feedback.
    • Thanks to this feedback throughout the development process, including during design and prototyping, teams can regularly adjust product features based on customer value to meet the needs of end users.
    • By encouraging the diversity of skills within teams (engineers, designers, logistics specialists, etc.) and transparent communication (reinforced by the Scrum framework), Lean Agile promotes internal collaboration, allowing quick problem solving and collective decision making

Lean Agile practices ensure you optimize your operational efficiency and reduce waste while continuously improving customer value. All in a collaborative and adaptive work environment that relies on the involvement of all stakeholders.

 

How to implement Lean Agile?

 

Implementing Lean Agile involves adapting your processes to the objectives of the method. The following 3 actions will lay the foundation for your transition:

Agile Planning:

  • Divide production into iterations called "Sprints." These are fixed time units, usually two to four weeks, during which a team plans, develops, tests, and delivers a defined set of deliverables. This division allows for planning and adjusting it according to project developments or customer feedback.
  • Rely on a realistic workload to ensure your teams' capacity. By keeping an eye on available resources, anticipating bottlenecks, and planning your objectives realistically, you can establish production volumes compatible with your work environment.
  • Protect your teams from interruptions by setting up buffer zones during sprints. This involves ensuring your collaborators are shielded from demands, interruptions, or unplanned tasks that could disrupt the workflow.

Focus on visual management of production

Set up Kanban boards that will allow you to visualize the progress of tasks. Note your key performance indicators (KPIs), identified problems, and ongoing and upcoming improvement actions. This type of management will allow you to track the progress of your teams and projects as a whole.

Organize user feedback and retrospectives

This will allow you to evaluate the deliverables you develop at each iteration. Regular team retrospectives will provide a space for your collaborators to assess the performance achieved at the end of a sprint, particularly through indicators. These meetings contribute to adjustment and continuous improvement efforts for products or processes.

 

What are the challenges of Lean Agile?

 

Aligning your operational processes with the Lean Agile methodology is a strategic investment, though the path to achieving your optimization goals may present several challenges.

Resistance to Change

Confronted with the need to alter work habits for a Lean Agile transition, some team members may resist. Employ these strategies to overcome this resistance:

  • Educate your teams about the advantages of the methodology to encourage future-focused thinking.
  • Offer tailored and individualized training to ensure they feel supported in embracing new practices.
  • Engage them in dialogues and decision-making about the Lean Agile implementation, promoting a sense of ownership.

Stakeholder Management

Actively involve stakeholders throughout the process, from estimation to delivery, including the engineering teams. This involves maintaining transparent communication to optimize everyone's contribution.

Overcomplexity

Shed the unnecessary and the overly complex. Streamline your production by avoiding excessive use of tools and practices. Embracing simplicity will preserve the agility of your processes.

 

Conclusion

Our extensive experience reveals that adopting Lean Agile provides at least seven key benefits to manufacturing companies:

  • Enhanced operational efficiency
  • Reduced and more predictable delivery times
  • Greater customer satisfaction
  • Optimal utilization of each team member's potential
  • Strengthened support from the engineering team
  • Decreased alterations and non-conformities
  • Increased profits and turnover

Whether you’re already convinced or still considering Lean Agile, feel free to reach out to the Talan experts. Our multidisciplinary team is eager to provide guidance and support in your optimization journey.

 

Interested in finding out how Talan can help you?

Contact us today !

 

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