Standardization is a Lean Key Point

When people think of heavy industry, they tend NOT to think about Lean Manufacturing. Yet, here is an interesting (and lengthy) article about how two crane manufacturers are employing the most critical of Lean principles, STANDARDIZATION, into their growth strategies.

When people talk about standardization, we should try to be a bit open-minded about the word. Why? It can assume different meanings in industry. In assembly, standardization might mean a best method, subject to ongoing kaizen. In sales and service, it could mean a checklist used to maintain good customer relations. We see strict, rigid standardization in hospitals - in the instruments, procedures and facilities. In this article, standardization is presented to us through the lens of product standardization, commonality and modular design.

What I like about this article is how the manufacturers are focusing not only on their benefits realized through modular design, but how those innovations will benefit the customer, service and other support services in this industry.

“Modular design will be the trend for the future. If you want to do lean, you need modular design. It’s a key enabler of the lean manufacturing process. At the manufacturing stage, there are benefits in tooling savings, and in staff training costs."

“A new modular approach to design, developed in the car and aviation sectors, promises crane buyers more choice and cheaper cranes, with fewer parts, faster delivery times and simpler staff training.”

“The push for standardization and modularization is driven by the need to reduce total cost of ownership for the crane operators. There are economies of scale: it reduces the cost of training and spare parts logistics and, furthermore, the need for engineering resources, and the development cycle is faster.”

“Cross product line standardization can bring much more than we see today. It will make training for operators and service teams cheaper and bring benefits to the certification process. There will be significant cost saving benefits for customers."

“Standardization at the component level simplifies our parts supply logistics and makes it easier to maintain cranes in the field. It means less training is needed to service new components.

“Operator controls are one of the hottest candidates to be standardized. They offer some of the most promising cost savings for maintenance, and offer safety and reliability benefits. Today, our staff can help customers operating different types of mobile cranes by using the same diagnostics system. This advantage needs to be systematically exploited. For customers and dealers too, it means less training is needed.

Fewer parts and systems to learn, less time to train, fewer resources required all translate to savings in training across the entire enterprise value stream. This strategy by the crane manufacturers is a fantastic approach to delivering real customer value. But will this strategy fulfill all of the predictions made here?

You may be asking, HOW could this get any better? HOW, indeed. This one word is THE reason why I think Job Instruction is so important to our industry's capability to compete. The manufacturer's focus their results on “WHAT” it is they are doing. When it comes to training people in standard work, we are told WHAT will happen: it will be easier, cheaper and faster. But will it be better if we use our existing training methods? HOW the training is actually done has very little to do with the success of modularity in design. Perhaps, if our training skills were standardized, beginning with Job Instruction, these crane companies could deliver the total package.

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