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Attendees of Lean Enterprise Transformation executive seminars provided by R. Michael Donovan & Company Inc. are asked to list their concerns and any questions they want answered about transforming to a lean enterprise. At a recent seminar, one executive asked: “Will lean manufacturing negatively affect our employee’s safety?”
According to management consultant Mike Donovan of R. Michael Donovan & Company, “The thought that lean manufacturing compromises safety is an unfounded argument I’ve heard before. Lean manufacturing is not only compatible with safety but over the years, experience has demonstrated that becoming lean is an absolute prerequisite to achieving the safest work environments possible. Actually, unsafe working conditions and accidents are the antithesis of lean and the ultimate waste.”
Jack Rink, lean consultant and lean training specialist, says, “The non-lean work environment is easily identified with its rather haphazardly designed work processes without safety designed in; poorly designed work processes means error proofing and standard work are impossible with untrained people doing work differently when they feel like it; and, messy, unorganized work areas mean that 5S principles have not been applied and accidents are just waiting to happen everywhere. Lean Manufacturing creates much safer conditions. People need to understand that safety is an essential and integral part of becoming truly lean. Above all, unsafe is not lean.”
Steve Engelman, a Lean Six Sigma consultant with R. Michael Donovan & Company, adds, “With work areas designed for lean manufacturing utilizing 5-S principles, ergonomics, error proofing and standard work will allow for the effective application of Total Productive Maintenance (TPM). With the proper application of lean tools, safety is designed into a process that is constantly monitored for conditions that could become operational problems.”
Lean manufacturing techniques, when properly applied, go a long way towards ensuring safe working conditions especially as compared to outdated conventional manufacturing methods.
R. Michael Donovan & Company is an international management consulting and education firm that provides manufacturers and distributors with lean manufacturing, Six Sigma, Lean Sigma and lean enterprise business performance improvement services on a focused, enterprise-wide or entire supply chain basis.