Lean Manufacturing White Paper: Part 3 of 3

The third and final excerpt in a 3-part series from Kaufman Global’s updated white paper, Implementing Lean Manufacturing: A Holistic Approach.

In Part 1 and Part 2 we covered the genesis of Lean manufacturing, why “pull” is such a fundamental concept and how Lean is an integrated system that goes well beyond technique. Here, in Part 3, we close the series with prescriptive approaches for attacking each of the 9 forms of waste. In this installment we discuss:

  • SLIM-IT ®: A proven structure for successful implementation
  • The Lean Daily Management System ® and the 20 Keys ®
  • A graphic example of what happens when you move from push to pull

Waste Wheel for Lean manufacturing




For each of the forms of waste there are certain attack methods. We start with People Energy Waste because it is the most challenging for most organizations.




Attacking People Energy Wastes

Attacking people energy waste

SLIM-IT, noted on the Master Jargon Chart section above (see the full chart in Part #2), is a pronunciation of the acronym for Structure, Lean (Daily Management System), Mentoring, Metrics, Teamwork, Tools, Training and Technology (SLMMTTTT). Kaufman Global’s SLIM-IT model is the primary engine of any Lean (or other) implementation because it aggressively attacks the people energy wastes that derail so many initiatives. Most organizations have ample technology, tools, training and teamwork “potential” to solve almost any problem or achieve any goal. The difficulty lies in compelling the right combination of the “Ts” to come together at the right time. This is what SLIM-IT does. Figure 6 presents the SLIM-IT model.

SLIM-IT Implementaion Model by Kaufman Global

Figure 6 – The SLIM-IT® Model

The Structure element of SLIM-IT employs several processes / mechanisms, including:

  1. Executive Steering Committee (ESC) that directs and coaches the initiative, ensures alignment and measures engagement.
  2. Work Stream Teams that are responsible for an ESC-approved element of work such as implementing shift start-up meetings or transferring a new product into a facility.
  3. Experts that provide process coaching, an executive sounding board, content expertise and overall initiative management for the organization.
  4. Charters for each Work Stream Team that are developed with and approved by the ESC. Charters include objectives, critical success factors, activities, deliverables, responsibility matrices, schedules and so on.

The building block of Lean is the intact workgroup. These are the hands-on associates who work near each other on similar processes every day.  Each workgroup of ten or fewer people operates its own LDMS that nurtures improvement and sustains realized gains. LDMS compels, coaches, mandates, and supports workgroup engagement in applying the correct tools to minimize waste in their work area.

LDMS consists of six core elements:

  1. Primary Visual Display (PVD) – The PVD is a large visual display that presents the current status of the workgroup on key metrics, goals, objectives and action plans.
  2. Shift Start-Up (SSU) Meeting – This is a tightly facilitated, structured, daily, stand-up meeting of the intact workgroup held in front of the PVD and lasting no more than ten minutes.
  3. 20 Keys ® Action Plan – The 20 Keys approach focuses each workgroup on a long-term improvement plan. Every set of 20 Keys (customized for different functional areas or processes) consists of a chart for mapping goal attainment and a corresponding set of point or level descriptors for individual keys. Each workgroup assesses itself and develops its own 20 Keys Action Plan for improvement. Figure 7 displays a 20 Keys chart for a manufacturing cell that has a current score (denoted with squares) of 30 out of 100 with a goal of 40 within 6 months.
The 20 Keys of Lean Manufacturing by Kaufman Global

Figure 7 – Example: a 20 Keys ® Action Plan for a Workgroup

The triangles represent the group’s improvement goals for individual keys for the next year. The improvement plan lists the specific actions required by the group’s members to attain the point goals. The chart and the accompanying improvement plan are posted on the group’s PVD.

  1. Kaizen Action Sheet (KAS) Improvement System – This technique allows the workgroup to capture small “inspirations” and improvement ideas. These are often “too small” to be considered by the formal suggestion system but are the basis for “kaizen” in Lean. The most important aspect of the KAS system is that it ensures the improvements are relevant for the workgroup.
  2. Metrics – This important element integrates detailed micro-process metrics tracking and short-interval coaching to focus individuals and workgroups on the critical few results drivers for a given process. Metrics are selected by the workers with input from management or supervisors / leads. Workgroup metrics are dynamic – if they are not effective in improving outcomes for the workgroup and overall process, they should be revised. Results are reviewed at the start of each work day by the team as part of its daily workgroup meeting.
  3. Short-interval coaching (SIC) is a technique where supervisors and managers visit the work area frequently (more than once a day) and provide coaching and feedback related to both results and activities. Short interval coaching is the manifestation of a shift in values for the organization. In the new, more Lean way of thinking and acting, there is greater emphasis on engagement (Is the LDMS fully functioning and improvement?), workgroup metrics (Is the information on the PVD up to date?), and improvement (Tell me about some of your Kaizen Action Sheets?). Short Interval Coaching is a vital change management method that must be taught as it isn’t a skill that is naturally occurring in most managers. Everyone in a leadership position can and should participate to reinforce new behaviors.

These five elements, if implemented and maintained, provide a rock-solid foundation for any world-class Lean program. They provide the mechanism for each workgroup to take ownership of their work processes.

Lean Daily Management System establishes the involvement and commitment that are the soul of world-class achievement in every human group endeavor.

All other Lean tools and techniques will realize only a fraction of their potential if any of these elements are not implemented and rigorously practiced.

Mentoring is the next element of SLIM-IT. This is the day-to-day coaching of managers and supervisors in real time, on-the-job, as the tools and techniques of Lean are implemented. The coaching must be done by those who understand the why, what and how of applied Lean. Mentoring is the mechanism that assures that management behaviors at all levels will be changed sufficiently and over a long-enough period of time to infuse them into the organization’s culture.

Metrics get a lot of attention in traditional organizations but they are often misguided. The most common problem is an overabundance of them. Second, the metrics that are most interesting to the top of the organization are often difficult to connect with the day-to-day work. The Metrics in the SLIM-IT model can be described in three ways:

  • Top-Level Strategic metrics that are the traditional measures of overall performance: Cost, Asset Utilization, Quality, etc. Here, less is more.
  • Micro-process: The metrics that workgroups focus on to steadily improve their performance. Here, diversity is key – one size does not fit all.
  • Activity-based metrics: These are the metrics that must be in place to make sure that the organization is engaged and aligned. They measure the occurrence, participation and frequency of the ESC and LDMS along with components contained within – like the effective use of team-based problem solving workshops, Value Stream Mapping as something more than a one-time occurrence and the 20 Keys. Personal performance measures and coaching also play a role here.

The linkage between these three types of metrics deserves careful consideration. Usually the top-level metrics get all the attention with little thought to how they are affected by micro-process improvements or measures that ensures broad participation.

Tools, teamwork, training and technology approaches are used by every organization in attempts to improve. Many of these approaches work if properly implemented. The key to their success is combining their usage within the other elements of SLIM-IT. Without a foundation of structure and coaching, tools, teamwork, training and technology will fail to deliver what they promise.

Attacking People Work WastesAttacking People Work Waste

Workplace Management methods are used to minimize people work wastes. They include standard work, workplace organization and Kaizen.

  1. Standard Work techniques are related to traditional Industrial Engineering (IE) analysis. With IE, engineers measure working time to establish concepts like “earned hours.” Standard work involves much more. Using a variety of worksheets (see Figure 5 – Master Jargon Chart), workgroups assess their own work and establish the best way to eliminate all types of waste. Standard work analysis leads to the development of Standard Work Instructions. Notice the sequence of this: The intact workgroup (team) determines the best standard way to do the work, then the Standard Work Instruction is developed. Many organizations get this completely backward and attempt to describe the work from outside the process. This always fails and always requires re-work.

The worksheets and templates used to develop standard work are extremely important for two reasons. One, they permit workers in an area to identify and measure micro-process waste that might otherwise be overlooked as insignificant. Two, in the process of attacking waste, workers develop the feelings of ownership that are so critical to the success of the people energy waste techniques. Figure 8 displays the “before” improvement portions of two types of worksheets for an actual cell.

The numbers on the Standard Work Instructions (SWI), shown in the left portion of Figure 8, represent worker actions. These actions are measured and classified as manual (hands-on) work, waiting, machine or walking on the Standard Work Combination Sheet (SWCS) shown in the right side of Figure 8. The cell is in trouble because it cannot meet its takt time of 65 seconds.

Standard work instruction and standard work combination sheet in push system

Figure 8 – Portions of a Standard Work Instruction (Left) and Standard Work Combination Sheet (Right) Showing the “Before” Situation in a production cell.

  1. Workplace organization, which is intimately involved with standard work, optimizes a workgroup’s environment through labeling, workplace / tool / part arrangement and visual displays. 5S, a Lean technique for cleaning and organizing is usually the starting point for workplace organization. Many organizations start out here because it’s easy for people to understand and natural for them to do. However cleaning and organizing is often the end point for many Lean endeavors. Visual systems – color coding, labeling, floor markings, andon lights, etc., are powerful techniques for making Lean part of the fabric of the enterprise, but they are only part of the system and are not a one-time event. They must be done with the same discipline and follow-up as any of the other methods described here.
  2. Kaizen, which appears as a separate approach in Figure 5, is actually the interplay of SLIM-IT with all of the other methods and techniques. It’s both the spirit and structure of worker participation in a focused manner. Kaizen Events are structured, team-based problem solving workshops of variable duration. These are only effective when supported and sustained by a functioning Lean Daily Management System.
Standard woek instruction and standard work combination sheet for pull system

Figure 9 – Portions of a Standard Work Instruction (left) and Standard Work Combination Sheet (right) showing the “After” situation for the production cell shown in Figure 8

The “after” situation in Figure 9 shows significant improvement toward the elimination of three types of People Work Waste within the cell: walking, waiting and processing. This optimization develops over time. The workgroup is aware of their performance based on their metrics that are a visible part of their PVD board. Sometimes the improvements are incremental and part of the Kaizen Action Sheet System. Sometimes, the improvements are more abrupt and come from Value Stream Mapping or a Rapid Improvement Event. The point is that the standard work of continuous improvement that is embodied by LDMS is a major influence on workgroup, and therefore overall, performance.

Attacking Quantity or Material Wastes

Attacking quantity waste

Just-In-Time (JIT) methods address the quantity wastes of making too much WIP, inventory and movement. Some people refer to all of Figure 5 as JIT or Kaizen. While technically incorrect, the JIT association is frequently made because you cannot employ JIT techniques to remove quantity waste unless you also address the other wastes concurrently. The kaizen substitution derives from much the same logic, although the popularity of kaizen blitzes has made kaizen an all-purpose descriptor for Lean for many people.

There are four primary JIT methods: kanbans, leveling, Quick Set-Up (also known as SMED: Single Minute Exchange of Die), and preventive maintenance (PM). We have already addressed kanbans and work leveling to some extent earlier in the paper.

  • Quick Set-Up is a collection of “best practices” that apply standard work and some machine modifications to changeover activities. A typical SMED study involves creating worksheets on a changeover and attacking the root causes of waiting and processing wastes. Reductions of 90 percent or more in changeovers and set-up times are not uncommon with SMED. Machines must be integrated into the level work of a JIT approach. If machine set-ups and changeovers take too long, there will be waiting waste (if downstream parts are not available) or inventory waste (if large lots accumulate to provide work during changeovers).
  • Preventive maintenance is the final JIT method. In a finely tuned Lean system, unplanned downtime is a bigger problem than in a traditional push system that is glutted with inventory. When a machine breaks down in a Lean system, there is little built-up inventory and delivery to the customer is at risk. A well-structured Lean system has well managed safety stocks to protect the customer during such repairs. Lean systems train operators to do routine preventive maintenance tasks such as lubricating and checking so that maintenance technicians can attend to overhauls, teaching operators and making design changes to improve machine efficiency.

Attacking Quality WasteAttacking quality waste

Error Proofing often referred to by its Japanese name, poka-yoke (pronounced “polka,” as in the dance, “yolk,” as in the egg, and “a,” as in bay), uses a variety of detection, warning, prediction and prevention mechanisms to catch or prevent errors at their sources. As you can imagine, the implementation of workplace management would automatically generate a number of error proofing actions (and vice-versa). Error proofing is a primary technique for quality improvement in Lean because it is so basic and easy for people to apply. One of the primary sources for error proofing ideas is via the Kaizen Action Sheet method contained within the Lean Daily Management System.

Six Sigma is a comprehensive set of practices that takes careful aim at variation reduction to improve product and service quality. It contains within it specific methods for statistical analysis, project management and problem solving and emphasizes the DMAIC model: Design, Measure, Analyze, Improve and Control.

The Danger of “Tool-itis”

As you can see from the above discussions, the fundamentals of Lean are not complex. Yet, few organizations pursue it as a key strategic goal. Many failures with Lean are derived from a “tool shopping” mentality. Rather than designing a step-by-step implementation of Lean, they attempt (either by accident or through management-led efforts) to cherry-pick bits and pieces of elements found in the “focus points” column of Figure 5. These organizations believe that if they install a few of the pieces, Lean will eventually happen on its own. This never occurs – especially since the isolated tools are typically accorded little management support and don’t mandate engagement. Examples:

  • Kanbans and lot size reductions will always reduce inventory, but they often generate more waiting waste unless standard work is pursued.
  • Error proofing efforts will eliminate only a small portion of those wastes that could be tackled with kaizen and workplace management methods.
  • SMED procedures will dramatically reduce machine downtime in any traditional plant, but the economic benefits pale next to those that also installed kanbans and work leveling.
  • Kaizen blitzes, or rapid improvement events, will deliver big results quickly but without a significant, planned effort to engage the broader organization, the benefits won’t sustain.

It is essential to realize that Lean involves both a philosophy and its accompanying approaches and tools. They are mutually supportive and interwoven. If an adequate number of the tools and approaches are aggressively implemented – and enthusiastically coached at the micro-process (hands-on worker or “gemba”) level – the philosophy of Lean springs to life.

Simply stated, the full impacts of Lean can only be achieved by implementing a total systems approach.


Lean manufacturing is a people process, not a tool installation exercise. It is a journey, not an event. It’s an intensive and proactive effort that requires planning, resources and day-to-day management attention and coaching. It is not easy or painless and must be approached with the understanding that it will take time to change and even longer to create a new Lean culture. Those who endeavor to pursue it holistically will reap the significant performance gains that will allow them to win in increasingly competitive markets, provide significant shareholder value and by enabling an organization of engaged and empowered problem-solvers.


If you’d like a pdf copy of the entire white paper (Parts 1-3 in one place), click here to access it via our Resources page.


About Kaufman Global

Kaufman Global is a proven implementation partner that focuses on accelerating performance. Since 1995 we have worked with clients around the world to drive enterprise-wide change initiatives and cultural transformations. Leveraging Lean, Six Sigma and proprietary change management techniques, Kaufman Global delivers structured implementation and transformation projects that enable sustainable operational and financial results.

20 Keys®, Lean Daily Management System®, LDMS®, Lean Leadership®, SLIM-IT®, WIN-Lean®, and the Kaufman Global logo are registered trademarks of Kaufman Global.