“One of our wrong, old core beliefs was that inventory is good,” says Hattin. “We thought it provided rapid availability to parts and allowed us to get to work quicker. That was the first sacred cow sacrificed on the altar of Lean management.” He says there were some veteran employees who felt “a good deal of pain” when the old way of operating was tossed out.
“Our mantra now is unless we have an order for it, we don’t build it. That and some multi-skilled plant people – for which we pay them extra for the additional skills have made us more effective.”
Accepting lean ideas is not always easy. Lean thinking requires a new way of viewing the world. The system must change for the methods to work.
In doing its own thing, Edson scrapped a computer-based kanban system in favor of its manual set up because, as Hattin explains,”it’s self-managed and provides quick visibility on the tasks on hand. “The investment was reasonable – about $78 for a peg board and color cards. The best thing about it is that everyone can see what’s going on in about 10 seconds and knows what the next job is.”
Advanced technology is great, but as a hammer is not always the best tool, similarly the most technologically sophisticated solution is not always the best solution.