The Five‐Phase Lean Approach by Jack N. Fults II

Introduction: Companies today continually strive to eliminate waste in order to maintain a competitive edge.  In order to remain competitive, organizations must adopt principles and concepts that will help  them operate more efficiently.  As many companies face increasing pressure to drive down prices  they become more open to new ways of thinking, such as the five‐phase lean approach.   Tool/Concept Defined  So what is lean? “At a high level it is a way of giving people at all levels of an organization the  skills and a shared means of thinking to systematically drive out waste by designing better ways of  working, improving connections and easing flows within supply chains.” (Wood) By eliminating  waste companies can simultaneously reduce costs, make better use of resources and deliver better  customer value. (Wood) The five‐phase lean approach is one approach that allows companies to  overcome obstacles such as, proper integration and communication involved in becoming lean. This  approach builds the principles of lean which are customer defines value, eliminate waste, customer  establishes pull, involve and empower people who add value, and the total cost is the ultimate  performance metric. The five‐phase lean approach is a systems approach that allows each phase of  implementation to build on each other. The different phases of implementation are as follows:  stability and flexibility, continuous flow, synchronous production, pull systems, and level production.  Stability and Flexibility    Building a lean system can be disastrous if the systems don’t allow for stability and  flexibility. “Systems must handle the changes involved in lean manufacturing and the instability that  occurs as change takes place.” (Allen) All companies are unique and require a certain strategic fit for  successful implementation. It’s important to understand that problems will arise and changes will  need to be made in order for the system to function correctly.

Don’t overreact or rush processes
just because a problem arises. This doesn’t mean that the lean approach is a complete failure. It’s  important to realize that lean is not a collection of tools but a way of thinking across your company.  (Flinchbaugh) Companies must be open to new ideas and ways of solving complex problems.  Problem solving techniques such as the PDCA (Plan‐Do‐Check‐Act) can help determine any sort of  deviation from the standard.   Continuous Flow  A balanced production line requires improvements and ongoing observation to eliminate  waste and examine connections and flows. Continuous flow requires products to flow from  workplace to workplace. (Wood) If product isn’t flowing the way it should then customers aren’t  getting what they need. Document the way the process is done, and use that standard to eliminate  variation in the process or how the operator does the job.” (John Allen) McDonalds, for example,  has a very detailed operations manual that consists of several hundred pages and weighs about four  pounds. (Schlosser) Detailed documentation of processes allows companies to standardize  production and synchronize employee workstations. A clear view of processes helps eliminate  wastes and identify areas where bottlenecks might occur.   Synchronous Production    Synchronous production occurs when the rate of production equals the rate that satisfies the  customer.(Allen) The rate is called the takt time. The takt time can be defined as the maximum time  allowed to produce a product in order to meet demand. (Wikipedia)  If products aren’t continually  flowing then the takt time will be at an unacceptable level. Standardized production will allow for  acceptable takt time rates and appropriate measures to complete production on time.   

Pull Systems
Pull systems pull products from one workstation to the next. (Allen) Pull systems are unique  in the fact that they require seamless coordination among different workstations. Each workstation  can’t complete the desired task unless the previous workstation performed their intended duty.  Unfinished work creates waste and an increase in takt times. John Allen suggests, “Structure your  line or conveyor process so that it will stop if the unit is not accepted in the next workstation. If the  conveyor does not stop when a part fails to move on, work‐in‐process accumulates or operators  struggle to produce more than one unit in the established takt time.” If systems aren’t flexible, then  product will back up and customers won’t receive product.   

Level Production    
Level production means all products must be leveled into the production sequence on the  basis of volume, mix, and sequence. (Allen) Replacement parts should be made in small volumes in  order to level out the production. The purpose of this is to level production of the highest volume  units and have long‐term objectives built into the others. Smaller component parts can be made  periodically at times that don’t disrupt higher volume items. This shows how the lean phases can  accommodate unique situations and adapt to changing issues. Frequent tests of these tools should  match against underlying principles of lean. Commitment to the implementation of lean and  development of a long‐term strategy are essential to the five‐phase lean approach.   An Example Where the Tool/Concept is Used    A company that manufactured merchandising equipment in the Midwest had a huge spike in  demand. The welding process was one of the major processes that were slowing production at the  plant. Managers decided to implement lean into the process where the base of the equipment was  welded together. The company needed immediate results so they moved to the flow and pull phases of  implementation.  
Before - After 
The company had processes and workstations all over the place. In between each workstation, material  was moving by forklift which was very inefficient. In order to pull things together they hired another  group leader; eliminated a scheduler in one line; moved unneeded people to other departments; gave  one operator two jobs; moved component materials closer to workstations; and established new  systems to allow product to move freely. “In five months, subassembly inventory decreased 61%,  manpower was reduced 9%, and ROI was 281%. (Allen) Since product was continually flowing through  the system, inventories decreased and takt time decreased.  However, since the first two phases of  flexibility and stability were ignored, preventative maintenance was almost non‐existent, employees  weren’t properly trained, and eliminating errors wasn’t a primary focus. Companies must follow all the  steps of the five‐phase lean approach to achieve maximum results. Skipping phases opens the doors for  small mistakes that will become major problems in the future. Every company is unique and must form  the five phases of lean to adapt their strategic fit.                
Works Cited and other valuable resources  
Allen, John H. “Make Lean Manufacturing Work for You”. Manufacturing Engineering. Dearborn: June  2000. Vol. 124, Iss. 6; pg. 54.    

Flinchbaugh, Jamie. “Lean is Born from How We Think: Fostering Sustainable Business and People  Success Through New Ways of Thinking”. Products Finishing. 2007‐06. Vol. 71, Iss. 9; pg. 34‐35.    

Hicks, B.J. “Lean Information Management: Understanding and Eliminating Waste”. International Journal of Information Management. 2007‐08. Vol. 27, Iss. 4; pg. 233 (17)    

Jacobs, F. and Chase, R. Operations and Supply Management: The Core. New York: McGraw‐Hill    International Edition, 2008.    Schlosser,

Eric. Fast Food Nation: the Dark Side of the All‐American Meal. US: Houghton Mifflin Books,  2001. 1‐356.    
Wood, Nigel.“Lean Thinking: What It Is And What It Isn’t”. Management  Services. 2004‐02. Vol. 48, Iss.  2; pg. 8‐11.           

More information  “Evaluation Of The Lean Approach To Business Management And Its Use In The Public Sector”.   
November 11, 2007.    Hicks, B.J. “Lean
Information Management: Understanding and Eliminating Waste”. International Journal       of Information
Management. 2007‐08. Vol. 27, Iss. 4; pg. 233 (17)    Nash, Mark, and Sheila Poling. quot;Strategic Management of Lean.quot; Quality 46 (2007).    Ozelkan, Ertunga, Gary Teng, Thomas Johnson, and Tom Benson. quot;Building
Lean Supply Chain and  Manufacturing Skills Through an Interactive Case Study.quot; Industry & Higher Education 21 (2008).  Keyword: lean implementation.    Peccei, Riccardo, and Jimen Lee. quot;Lean Production and Quality
Commitment. a Comparative Study of  Two Korean Auto Firms.quot; Personnel Review ( Farnborough ) 37 (2008).