A recent article in the Economist painted a gloomy picture suggesting another global recession may be on the horizon. Worryingly, with interest rates low and previous policy ideas less palatable, they ask if the world economies are ready to weather such a storm. We should also be asking ourselves if our organisations are ready to deal with such uncertainty.
Research completed by the Centre for Economic Performance (CEP) after the 2008 recession showed that the quality of management practices are a key indicator in predicting an organisation’s ability to survive (or succeed in) the unpredictable challenges of a recession. Maybe this is why a consistent topic of conversation at the moment on our Management Systems training courses (regardless of whether the subject is Quality, Environmental or Health & Safety focussed) is Lean. After all, the Japanese know a thing or two about surviving natural disasters and long term stagnant economic growth.
Most readers will know that Lean is synonymous with Quality (reducing waste with a focus on value for the customer, and meeting customer expectations). But a Lean approach can be applied to other areas of management too, such as Environmental, Health & Safety and Information Security Management. Indeed, there is a requirement in standards including ISO 14001, ISO 45001 & ISO 27001 for the continual improvement of these management systems which Lean is well placed to support.
A commonly used Lean tool that compliments workplace safety very well is 5S. In its English translation, 5S stands for Sort, Set, Shine, Standardise and Sustain. This Lean tool is normally used to establish organisation and standardisation of the workplace with the aim of improving productivity. Used well, 5S can form the basis for creating a safe and ergonomic workplace through the careful placement of equipment (such as heavy objects where they can be lifted easily), removal of unnecessary items, keeping of tools and equipment clean and then maintaining these safe habits.
Similarly, Environmental Management can be supported by the top level Lean tool, Value Stream Mapping (VSM). VSM helps organisations to map the steps taken for materials and information to reach a finished product or service, forming the basis for continual improvement and waste reduction. Lean defines 7 Wastes (or 8 if you include the Underutilisation of People) as Waiting, Unnecessary Movement, Transportation, Defects, Over Production, Unnecessary Inventory & Unnecessary Processing. Whilst these are looked at with value to the customer in mind, it is clear to see that unnecessary transportation and storage space, and the disposal of excess product or hazardous material, all negatively impact the environment. By combining Lean initiatives with your environmental management obligations, you’ll be able to reduce costs, improve efficiency and improve your organisation’s environmental performance all at the same time.
Using Lean tools needn’t be thought of as the preserve of organisations with company-wide Lean initiatives. All management systems professionals should be able to apply Lean techniques to achieve their own continual improvement goals, and as a consequence, their businesses will be more resilient and likely to succeed in the uncertain economic times to come. If you haven’t set yourself CPD objectives to develop your Lean skills we think you should. In times of peace, wise people prepare for war.
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This article was written by David Cole and was originally published in Quality World.