There has been a constant necessity for improving the efficiency of production in manufacturing industries and one such tool is the Lean methodologies. Lean is a set of techniques that is aimed at adding value to the customers by eliminating waste and thereby improving efficiency. But shifting an industry’s operations to Lean can be quite challenging one, since it is not a mere change in manufacturing practices but a change in cultural atmosphere of an industry. This paper tries to explore the possible barriers in the implementation of lean methods. Since by identifying the barriers to lean the efficiency industries can be improved.
There has been a significant increase in the adaption of Lean methodologies in the manufacturing companies in the west in recent years. Time and time again Lean way of production has been proven to be a successful model for manufacturing and related industries. Lean is a set of methodologies that solely focus on adding value to the customers by identifying and eliminating waste, i.e., eliminating those which does not add value to the customers. Lean manufacturing has its beginning in Toyota that grew at Japan in the automotive sector after the second world war CITATION Moh17 l 1033 1. Because of the huge success of Toyota internationally, western world began to study and emulate the production system that was employed at Toyota. Even though Lean is set of ‘tools’ that aims in improving the efficiency of a manufacturing company, it does not stop with that. There is much more to Lean techniques than mere methods and practices, Lean techniques not only impacts the production line and shop-floors, but it impacts the entire organization. Over all, Lean uses less resources, less time, less space, less human efforts, less materials to produce maximum output that satisfies the exact customer needs CITATION Wom90 l 1033 2.
When a company tries to adapt Lean techniques, it can be quite challenging one. Implementation of Lean is a very crucial phase for a company. Since it determines the successful execution of Lean. There are many studies and research showing the success rate of Lean methods, but there are very few studies that deals with implementation of Lean and their difficulties. When an industry decides to shift Lean production, there can be numerous barriers that needs to be overcome to find success through Lean production. Many companies start positively to implement Lean only to find that it is vey difficult path to follow with a guaranteed success at the end CITATION Mar09 l 1033 3. Lean method is path of continuous improvement along the way. So, by identifying the barriers to Lean implementation, one really in true sense can improve the efficiency of the company. This paper tries to bring up the most critical barriers to Lean methods. There can be numerous barriers to Lean depending on the type of industry, but this paper tries take up three common but critical factor that influences a successful implementation Lean method. It is important to note that there not many studies that talks about the failure of Lean, since companies does not disclose their failures and amount of investment that was wasted CITATION Moh17 l 1033 1.
Review of the Literature
First two papers try to prove the point that Lean is the best way of production and manufacturing that improves the overall performance of the company. It also shows that Lean not only improves the production efficiency but also it is environmentally conscious. Lean method paves the pathway for environmentally benign manufacturing.
Xian-Chun Tan et al, (2011) CITATION Xia11 l 1033 4 analyzed in optimizing the production process through Genetic Simulated Annealing Algorithm (GSAA) and IPO (Input-Process-Output) methods to develop a manufacturing process that is environmentally benign and as well as economically profitable. They decide on the production process that integrates new production process, selected production process and batch production process. The main for these processes is to evaluate the component manufacturing process in terms of Environmentally Benign Method (EBM). Moreover, they define EBM as a method of production that balances both economic and social benefits CITATION Xia11 l 1033 4. Their paper aims at identifying, quantifying, assessing the production flow process. Also, their study includes, monitor recourse consumption power consumption and their respective environmental impact. They righty conclude that waste and resource consumption are the roots of pollution, so it is inevitable that improving the production means to reduce the waste materials which in turn means less pollution. They rightly conclude that improvement in production process means improvement in environmental friendliness, that smart company is the one that has less negative impact on environment but at the same time has high economic and manufacturing performances.
The next paper deals with the coalition of Lean methods with Industry 4.0. since the future companies and industries and heading towards the concept industry 4.0, it is very much important to find a way to integrate Lean into industry 4.0 for maximum efficiency improvement. It argues that adapting lean in industry 4.0 is positive way for improvement and efficiency. Beata Mrugalska et al. (2016) CITATION Bea17 l 1033 5 have studied about efficiency of Lean techniques and integrating the lean method in the futuristic Industry 4.0. The paper suggests that lean production is the process of continuous improvements and performing more with less resources. It is one of the way to improve the production and performance of an industry. The paper highlights that implementation of Lean is based on the characteristic of an organization and the work culture in that firm. Implementing Lean also depends on the mindset of the employees and the concept of quality assurance that the workforce follows. The paper also lists the characters or advantages of small and large business in Implementing Lean methods. One key feature is that in small businesses it is easier to change the organization culture and practices, on the other hand, in large businesses it is easier to access all resources and data. The paper suggests the possible changes in the organization because of Lean techniques such as active shop floor, orientation to Kaizen, problem solving facilities, closer relation with suppliers, cross functional workforce and high commitment of human resources. So, when Lean combines with Industry 4.0, the paper suggests that further improvement in production or the performance of the company. Such as smart products that has zero or minimal wastes, smart machines that can be monitored and feeds in live information, and augmented operator that can receive failure notification in live time. Thus, the improvement in future is industries would be a combination between Lean methods and Industry4.0 and internet of all things etc.
Now focusing on the implantation of Lean and their barriers the following paper has been reviewed which provides ample insight into the various barriers of lean and success factor of Lean implementation. In their research paper, Jan Alpenberg et al., (2016) CITATION Jan16 l 1033 6 focusses on the challenges in implementing Lean production. They identify precisely, communication is a vital factor that determines the success of a lean practices in any given company. Obviously, Lean methods and practices are only aimed at increasing the productivity of a company but implementing the method of Lean for the first time is huge challenge. The authors describe how healthy communication practices along with Lean can be successful. One such example they provide is the implementation of Quality circles in the western countries. Even though the western countries have adopted the practice of Quality circles form Japan, they only were concerned with their methods procedures. But, the western companies failed to take note on the communication methods that was practiced in Japan along with Quality circles CITATION Jan16 l 1033 6. That is, the west saw QC as only as a business practice which has no link to the communication practices. The paper then focuses on three main types of communication such as blending, positive engagement and soft words. The paper shows that western companies failed or finds it hard to implement Lean because of improper communication methods when compared to Japanese companies.
Sandra Tillema et al, (2015) CITATION San15 l 1033 7 has published a paper which shed light on the problems and tensions that arises when implementing Lean production methods. This paper focuses on the management difficulties and contradiction between various departments in a company. Even though Lean production is based on continuous improvement and corrections along the way, there are few serious issues that can arise as an obstacle to Lean implementations. The author further explains it by taking a case study on Gyphon NL a Netherland based manufacturing company which moves towards adopting the Lean methods. One of the issue that arises was conflicts between the financial department at the HQ and the shop floor managers CITATION San15 l 1033 7. Since the financial department tend to be more controlling and they continued to follow tradition method of evaluating the performances at floor level. This was a drawback for shop floor managers in implementing Lean methods since the finance department demands for an immediate success instead of success in near future. More over the mangers must be dependent on Finance department for every approval of a new initiation of a Lean method this was also drawback in implementing the Lean practices.
Another study by Mohammed Almeni et al., (2017) CITATION Moh17 l 1033 1 tries to enlist the failures of Lean implementation. The point here is that by studying the failures of Lean implementation, one could understand deeply the barriers of Lean methods and their related issues. The authors states that the failure stories or studies related to Lean failure are not prevalent because of the hesitation of the company in revealing their investment failures and their poor decisions. Only few failure studies are published because of the high popularity of the companies attempt to adopt Lean methods. The author suggests list of barriers to Lean like supplier’s difficulties, leadership problem, and management contradictions to name a few. This study also proves that there are serious practical difficulties in implementing and successfully following the Lean methods.
Another main barriers in implementing Lean is the presence of friction between various hierarchies in a management of a company. Eirin Lodgaard et al., (2016) CITATION Eir16 l 1033 8 has studied extensively about the barriers to implementing Lean among top managers, middle managers and workers. The paper shows that there are various factors that are considered as barriers by employees of different hierarchical levels of a company. For example, the author suggests that the barriers faced by top management may not be considered as a real barrier for Lean by a normal worker and vice versa CITATION Eir16 l 1033 8. Presence of a positive motivating leadership is a cause for successful lean implementation. The author also stresses the importance of communication flow from top to bottom and vice versa in an organization. Another key barrier according to the author is the lack of proper knowledge and understanding of Lean methods and tools. This is prevalent among the workers and even at managers level too. Since there is a lack of agreement in defining Lean accurately among the scholars, workers tend to be more confused in understanding of the true meaning of Lean and its practices. This confusion may hamper a successful implementation of Lean method in a company.
Konstantinos Saloniti et al., (2016) CITATION Kon16 l 1033 9 has also analysed the key barriers in implementing Lean method among Greek manufacturing company. The author argues that the way in which Lean is implemented is very important because it gives the first impression to the workers on Lean. If the method fails, then the workforce of a company can lose confidence in Lean. So, the method of implementing Lean very critical. Moreover, the author notes that there are no precise techniques or procedure in implementing Lean principles and this quite a challenge for transitioning companies. Hence the author states the necessity to develop a reliable method in Implementing Lean.
Another important barrier is the lack of proper leadership in a company. Mudhafar Alaferi et al., (2017) CITATION Mud17 l 1033 10 has exclusively analyzed the importance of the leadership role in implementing and guiding a successful lean method in a company. The author uncovers in series of interviews the top management role is very critical in small and medium scale enterprise. Since top management purpose is to provide a capable leadership who can guide the transition and implementation of Lean in a company. The leadership must be of strategic significance and must provide with necessary knowledge of the lean method to the workers. Even though Lean method first starts with shop floor level, support and long-lasting commitment from top management will provide kind of boost in the morale of the workers and will increase in their interest in lean methods. The author also suggest that an efficient leader must be engaging and must be an instrument of developing employees. Over all leadership and the style of leadership are vital factors in a company for a smooth and successful transition and implementation of Lean and thereby improving efficiency of production.
Barriers to Lean
One criticism of lean is that its practitioners may focus on tools and methodologies rather than on the philosophy and culture of lean. Consequently, adequate management is needed in order to avoid failed implementation of lean methodologies CITATION Hop08 l 1033 11. Lean is not only a technique but a cultural change in the day to day activities of a company. Lean calls in every level of employees to be more involved and responsible in their actions. Literature review suggests that there are seven categories which can be identified as a barrier to Lean and they are: Management, resource, knowledge, conflicts, employees, financial and past experience CITATION Kum14 l 1033 12. In many cases where implementation of lean failed it is because of lack clear cut vision and planning by the top management. This is because of conflicts between top management and workers and the main reason for this conflict is due to lack of proper flow of communication between the hierarchies of the company. So, we see here that improper communication is the root cause of improper planning and implementation and further leading to management difficulties in implementing lean methodologies. Another important barrier revealed through literature review is the lack of commitment from the Management side. This is shown through the less freedom for the low-level and medium -level workers to bring in their own ideas in improving the implementation of lean. That is the management tends to be more controlling and less flexible to new ideas or suggestions given by shop-floor workers. Moreover, this occurs when the management especially finance department seeks for an immediate economic result which intern pressurizes the workers thereby, they lose interest in lean methods. Another barrier to a successful implementation to lean arises because of the lack of knowledge among the workers and middle level managers. This includes lack of experience, lack of tools, lack of training, improper usage of lean methodologies etc. in many cases though, lack of proper training is a key factor. Again, this because lack of commitment from both the workers and management. The employees must be given proper and precise training regarding the lean techniques and tools. The management before starting to implement lean, it must assure the proper training of its workforce, this also calls in for commitment from the employees. There various lean tools and practices, so hence the workers must be given training in the right lean practice that suits the company. Proper and sufficient training gives confidence to the workers and a good training program means considerable investment from the management.