Q:

What are the effects of lean methodology?

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Quick Answer

When applied correctly, lean methodology, sometimes referred to as lean manufacturing, should improve a company's efficiency and profitability, while producing a higher quality product. Some unintended side effects of a lean conversion may include poor morale, excessive layoffs, lost expertise and damage to the organization.

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Full Answer

Lean methodology, often associated with the Six Sigma process improvement system, is applied with the intention of reducing waste at all levels to deliver better results while using less energy. Lean methodology calls for an in-depth analysis of staffing, processes, expenditures and transactions.

Corporate coaching organizations, such as iSixSigma and the Lean Enterprise Institute, consult with business leaders to implement lean principles. They look for areas where the business could improve staffing by reducing positions, shifting manpower or hiring an individual with specific skills. They evaluate the use of resources and identify places where resources can be shared, eliminating waste without impacting productivity. Load balancing, another lean principle, seeks to alter the work flow to reduce or eliminate surges and lulls, thereby utilizing the personnel or production resources more efficiently.

Unfortunately, although the intent of lean methodology is to produce a higher quality product more efficiently, this idea is often misinterpreted as "doing more with less." ISixSigma cautions businesses against applying lean principles without the proper analysis and preparation. Some businesses jump straight to layoffs, redistributing the workload to the remaining personnel without recognizing the ripple effects that widespread firing has on morale and quality.

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