When I ask what is lean manufacturing, the most common definition I received is “doing more with less”. That one is also, my less favorite. I don’t like it because it is too easy to link that phrase with firing people. Unfortunately, there are too many people who launch lean with the only objective of personnel reduction.
Lean manufacturing means creating more value for customers with fewer resources while we deliver what the customer wants, with the quality expected and when they need it. Value is whatever the customers are willing to pay for. Fewer resources mean less time, less human effort, less machinery, fewer materials, less space. By no means lean pretend to create value with fewer people, the idea is to relocate people on those areas where we need them to create value.
People committed to lean manufacturing, understand that respect for the people is one of the fundamentals of the program. It is important to say early in the game, that we are not looking to fire people, but please don’t say it if you don’t mean it. If what that is what you really want to do, please do not use lean manufacturing for that purpose.
People will not commit to the whole continuous improvement process if they feel that their employment is at risk. They should not have any concerns about job security if they do then will not focus on any activity towards standardization or continuous improvement.