Lean is not necessarily mean

November 2004
Management Services;Nov2004, Vol. 48 Issue 11, p6
This article focuses on a three-year investigation on lean production methods, released by Lancaster and Cambridge Universities in 2004. The study found that such methods, which are becoming the global competitive standard in manufacturing, could help improve some of the more stressful elements of working in a modern production line, while ensuring higher quality and productivity. As readers will know, lean production aims to reduce waste at all levels of the organisation and drive up efficiency by exposing weak points in the production system. This tends to increase intensity, and force a more efficient way of working. But lean factories are also designed to be efficient with carefully thought out workspaces, effective, easily accessed tools and an engaged workforce. Inappropriate tools, poor ergonomic design and lack of control over their own working hours were some of the things workers found particularly stressful. Another major stressor, blame for defects, is particularly problematic in high performance organisations since worker involvement is a key element in continuous improvement and process excellence programmes. One of the more surprising results was that lean methods bring about increased stress in workers in the short term, and in the longer term the stress levels fall back again. The study concluded this could be because improvement had been made making it easier for workers to do their jobs.


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