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3 Tips for Explaining Lean to Your Manufacturing Manager

Updated: Aug 15, 2023

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Bright AM Reading Time: 4 minutes

Explaining Lean

The world of manufacturing has evolved to include real-time information, big data, and global considerations. It has also welcomed the presence of Additive Manufacturing as either a part of a traditional manufacturing workflow or a separate entity altogether. Manufacturing workflows are changing too— or rather, they should be, but sometimes, traditional management still prevails because of entrenched habits and misunderstandings. If you know that it’s time to modernize your manufacturing process, here’s how to convince more traditional management to get on board.

Why manufacturing managers may be reluctant to change

Before you go in swinging, it helps to understand why traditional management may be resistant to the idea of changing their manufacturing model. There are three main hesitations.

They don’t realize that gaps exist

This means, “it’s always been this way.” Not everything is a full pain point. We like the idea of change when it fixes something obviously broken, but what if manufacturing is humming along nicely?

Manufacturing is deeply susceptible to disruption due to razor-thin margins, and Additive Manufacturing has its own challenges. Much of this danger is hidden without a catalyst. The recent pandemic, for example, highlighted the precarious nature of manufacturing with an embarrassing toilet paper shortage. Manufacturers would be thrilled to avoid such missteps in the future.

There’s a lack of unified data for understanding the full picture

Disparate data sources and inconsistencies can hide a lot. Without a clear understanding of the information, manufacturers may not realize the gaps or the potential that it offers. For traditional managers, data has been fragmented and slow.

A better understanding of data, such as enhanced visualization, could help shift this opinion. It’s a matter of comprehending the power of insight and more importantly, its availability.

They misunderstand the effort involved

The transition to Lean may seem challenging to traditional management. Introducing software to illustrate the transition could open minds to the process. Software integrates data, unifies systems across the organization, and improves universal communication. It also establishes a single source of truth necessary to harness the true potential of data. Therefore, it can make transitioning to Lean streamlined and straightforward.

Addressing these pain points with solutions can help make the case for Lean manufacturing less about convincing and more about understanding that this is the way of the future. It could even make your management excited about the possibilities of using new, innovative solutions.

1. Start with a problem metric

Every department, industry, etc. has a metric that never seems to add up. For manufacturers, it’s often quality control. This doesn’t have to be true in your case.

  • Illustrate how Lean can help initiate positive change. Lean shows areas of efficiency and waste, providing small and fast iterations for continuous improvement.

  • Tie that change to the problem metric. In quality control, for example, the right project management software could help create precedent even for the unique materials and recycling habits of Additive Manufacturing.

  • Outline the sprint that could change the metric. Using your software solution, show management how one simple change could lead to improvement and greater value.

  • Focus on small changes producing big outcomes. You don’t have to overhaul your entire process all at once. Put your manager’s mind at ease by suggesting a shift where Lean could have the biggest impact for the smallest effort.

2. Highlight the base principle: “Smaller effort, bigger output”

Instead of adding to a workload, Lean manufacturing is designed to remove laborious processes that create waste and drive up costs. Traditional management is used to substantial initiatives that require extra training, disruption, and downtime.

Lean manufacturing removes the need for huge changes, favoring sprints instead. Illustrating how these small movements create value could make management more amenable to the process.

  • Identify areas where budgets and resources are scarce.

  • Outline precarious margins.

  • Showcase how quick pivots are possible during massive disruption, thanks to real-time data collection.

Manufacturing is still reeling from the global disruption during the COVID-19 pandemic. Lean principles can soothe some of these pain points and offer a viable alternative for Additive Manufacturing to join Industry 4.0.

3. Make it about them (and the company)

Manufacturing management is stressful. Here’s how to present the project in a positive light with less anxiety.

  1. Suggest a small Lean pilot project.

  2. Outline any Lean successes in other departments if you can (marketing, product development, etc.), or note successes from other organizations to show that Lean manufacturing is a safe bet.

  3. Highlight that Lean management makes change less stressful. This concept is helpful because managers absorb the brunt of any pivots or disruptions.

The hardest step is often the first one. Smaller changes can shift the benefit from vague to specific for the department and the company as a whole. That should be the clearest part of your presentation.

Getting started with Lean management

Lean manufacturing is an excellent way to handle disruptions, thin margins, and laborious manual processes. When your company is ready to make the switch, be sure your software is ready for the challenge.

Bluestreak | Bright AM has a full suite of products designed to transform your communication, streamline specifications, and make quality control documentation the most accurate that it’s ever been. Convincing your management to make the switch is easier with a transparent plan and the right software to make it all come together.

When your quality control process needs improvement, you’re wasting time and money. You are also putting future business at risk, and we know how small of an industry this can be. Dissatisfied customers tend to spread the word to their colleagues, which can hurt future sales. Recognize the warning signs and take action today by contacting Bluestreak | Bright AM.

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