Lean manufacturing is about change, but the process does not work unless it is done the right way, said Bruce Hamilton, president of the Greater Boston Manufacturing Partnership Inc. in Dorchester, Mass.
``There's too little focus on people. People are the business and they don't like to be the object of change,'' Hamilton said during a May 20 interview in the Lean Manufacturing Pavilion at the Eastec Advanced Productivity Exposition in West Springfield.
He talked of the difference between two automotive firms.
If a defect is spotted, workers at one company pass it along to the next station; while at the other firm the line is stopped. The philosophies differ in that workers at one get in trouble if they stop the line, while at the other, the worker is in trouble if he or she doesn't stop the line.
Hamilton operates the nonprofit GBMP out of the University of Massachusetts' Boston College of Management.
The organization worked with the Society of Manufacturing Engineers to promote lean manufacturing at Eastec.
Hamilton espouses the Toyota style of lean manufacturing and said that to make the program work, ``the focus is on everyone, every day.''
The wrong approach, Hamilton said, is to get a blue-ribbon panel to make the change. The right way is to go to the assembly line and get the workers to make the change.
Hamilton, who likes to use examples, pointed to a kitchen. He said that if you go into a flatware drawer, it's easy to find the forks and spoons, but that the same kitchen always has a junk drawer. In the junk drawer, it is normal to take everything out just to find the object you are looking for - and that takes time.
He likened it to an injection molding plant where, during tooling changes, an employee would use a shop vacuum to clean the machine.
That worked fine until one day the employee spent half an hour looking for the vacuum and then gave up.
``That's instability and it happens all the time,'' said Hamilton, noting that there is a junk drawer at every facility and that employees have to work out solutions and contingency plans.
That's why Eastec used a separate pavilion to help visitors learn to develop their manufacturing processes.