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Is Lean For Me?

Updated: May 1, 2019

chalkboard illustration of a question mark turning into an idea lightbulb

Lean Manufacturing. Kaizen. Continuous Improvement. TPS. Process Excellence. Six Sigma. If you’ve had your ear to the ground over the last decade or two, you’ve probably heard these terms come up in business books, blogs and videos. You may have heard of the successes of major companies like Toyota, Nike, Ford, Harley Davidson, Intel, John Deere, Motorola, and how they attribute much of their success to operating their business according to “Lean Principles.” In fact, it may seem like this mysterious thing called Kaizen is the magic bullet to success and longevity in manufacturing and business. However, with this new awareness comes a slew of questions: can I use this in my business? Does this work for me? How do I get started?

Let’s start with the first question that pops up for most of us: what the hell is it? Put simply, Lean Manufacturing is a philosophy and methodology that focuses on removing waste and non-value-added activity from the processes we use to complete our work. It’s an idea that has been around since the early days of the industrial revolution and was refined as mass manufacturing took off in the early 20th century. However, it wasn’t until the philosophy was picked up by post-war Japan and refined by companies like Toyota that it became the premiere manufacturing mindset. If you’re wondering why Made in Japan has been synonymous with quality craftsmanship, reliability, dependability and good value, most of it can be traced back to a single word: Kaizen. Continuous Improvement. Change for the Better.

Now, about those other questions: can I use this in my business? Does this work for me? The short answer is YES! Whether you’re a multi-facility HVAC manufacturing giant or a two-man duct shop, you can increase your productivity and profits by adopting Continuous Improvement into your culture. The fact of the matter is that the philosophy of Continuous Improvement has hit critical mass in the world of manufacturing. That includes your sheet metal shop. It’s clear that Lean Manufacturing is here to stay. It’s the future. If you want to stay relevant in the business climate of today, it’s no longer enough to sit on past methods and even past successes. Business moves forward.

Which brings us to our final question: How do I get started? Believe it or not, this is the point where most people turn back. Getting started on your Continuous Improvement journey can be a daunting task. It requires change and change can be hard. On top of that, there are so many paths and resources that it can be overwhelming. This is why the HVAC Duct Manufacturers Association was formed: to provide resources and support relevant to our industry. We have spent years testing and refining Continuous Improvement principles in our duct shops and have come out with tried and true methods that produce real-world results. Our Continuous Improvement Groups have become a hotbed of innovation that produce meaningful and lasting change. Whether you’re interested in incorporating Lean into your business practices or maybe you’ve tried already and fallen flat, we have a place for you on our team. Please contact us to learn more about what we offer and how to get involved.

As you embark on your Continuous Improvement journey, one of the best tips I can give you is this: keep it simple.

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