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Lean Manufacturing & Life of Bees

Lean Manufacturing and Life of Bees 

As Operational Excellence Consultants; one of the very special things about our lives is that we always go through journeys.

With each client, we have a different journey similar to traveling to a new place and learning new things about nations and cultures.

Last month we celebrated the journey of 21 month of Lean Manufacturing deployment at two big companies in Egypt. One of the biggest home appliances companies and one leading cosmetics manufacturer.

Despite of the significant savings realized to date, plant managers were concerned and asked openly: “how can we maintain this success and not to lose momentum?”. Thinking of his question, it came up to my mind immediately how bees live and work.  

Beehives are nature amazing example of a manufacturing plant. Each bee has a specific role, queen honey bee lays up to 1500 eggs per day and may lay up to 1 million in her lifetime, while the single honey bee worker produces about 1/12 of a teaspoon of honey in her lifetime. The worker bees must produce about 60 lbs of honey to sustain the entire colony during winter time.

Similarity between honey bee colony and lean manufacturing plants are noticeable.

  • Lean appreciate the human factor, focus on increasing the capability of workers, supervisors and upwards to management levels connecting all pieces of the puzzle together or aligning all units objectives to those of the whole organization.
  • Lean manufacturing requires high level of commitment at all times as the bees to their colony. We’ve seen many times where management at the beginning of a project showing excitement, motivation and commitment that fades away in a number of months later.

Consistency is a challenge in every organization. Lean is an obsession. You either love it or be obsessed about it or you lose it so quickly.

We’ve seen management moving from a project to another with the same level of excitement despite not following through the completion of the earlier project!!!

Bees are our role models they keep working constantly and never stop or give up. They are extremely organized and hives are always clean. The all serve their colony and they are a good example of standardization and perfect teamwork. No Delays and Zero Defect.

This raises the question how hard is it to maintain sustainable LEAN deployment success?

back to my friends, the two plant managers:

I found their concerns legitimate and asked them to consider cascading lean knowledge down to all levels of workers and technicians. Embedding lean culture is the key to sustain any work improvement project. I told them honestly that they have just started the journey. We simply helped them to discover new limits through their people.

What I consider the key success to any lean project is the PEOPLE, lean recognizes good efforts and reward them. A photo of “worker of the month” or “best lean idea provider” usually motivates workers to do more and keep them engaged. Financial rewards are important, however non-financial ones are equally important. Also, investing in them and train them on green belt or black belt helps them promoting best practices, have the right eye that can easily spots  WASTE and drive good change into the working environment.

Similar to Beehives, specific roles and objectives are clearly set and monitored and high level of commitment to productivity are fundamentals keys to any organization sustained success.

What do you think? Is this enough to sustain lean improvement into workplace? Give us your thoughts and share with us your experience in sustaining lean success


Copyright reserved to Shereen Mosallam, Symbios Consultant 

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