How to Hire a Lean manufacturing Consultant

Why do you need to Hire a Lean Manufacturing Consultant?

You will need to hire a lean consultant if you are implementing lean manufacturing to improve the performance of your business processes. Lean manufacturing is a very broad philosophy for business improvement that has many tools to aid you in making your production or service more efficient and better at satisfying your customers. The benefits of lean manufacturing are very significant in both the terms of your ability to perform for the customer as well as your companies profitability.

Being able to successfully implement lean across a company is not something that you can pick up from reading a few lean implementation books, nor is it something that you can learn from a training course in your local hotel. To truly be able to implement lean you have to have lived and breathed it for several years to gain enough experience.

Lean Consultant in Action

A Lean Consultant will Lead From the Front.
A Lean Consultant will Lead From the Front. | Source

What is Lean?

Lean is not just about waste reduction as many people seem to think. Lean does remove waste (seven wastes) and makes you more profitable, but it does this by preventing the creation of waste by focusing on providing value to the customer. My hub What is lean manufacturing will give you a good idea of what lean is about and the history of lean manufacturing will help you understand how and why it has developed.


External consultant vs In-House Expert?

It is unlikely that any of your existing employees have this level of skill and experience so you will have to bring in someone with the skills and experience you need to implement your lean program. You will need someone who has successfully implemented lean in a number of companies and has used a wide range of the lean tools that are available.

Hiring a lean manufacturing consultant allows you to bring in someone that is independent from your organization and not burdened by the internal politics or any pre-conceived ideas of how the place should work. They can also bring the experience of what has worked in other companies, what has not worked so well, and so on. Their experience will help you to implement lean manufacturing in a smooth and efficient manner.

People who have experience in other industries often have ideas and knowledge that can be applied in your industry that otherwise would not be tried. As they say "You do not know what you do not know!" If you have no experience of something you are unlikely to dream it up on your own.

A Lean Consultant will Prevent the Creation of Waste

Hire a Lean consultant to tackle waste
Hire a Lean consultant to tackle waste | Source
Use a lean consultant to eliminate the 7 wastes
Use a lean consultant to eliminate the 7 wastes | Source

Is Lean Just About Removing Waste?

Lean manufacturing is about defining value as perceived by the customer, then making the value flow from raw materials to the customer without being delayed or held in inventory by a process called just in time manufacturing (JIT), this is achieved at the pull of the customer, not by working to forecasts and guesses of what the customer will want. This whole process requires you to respect and involve all of your workforce and involve then in a process of continual improvement.

A good lean consultant will explain these lean principles to you, if all they talk about is reducing waste on your factory floor then they do not truly understand the philosophy of lean manufacturing. Lean Consulting is more than just coming into your company to make a quick impression by saving a few dollars by removing obvious waste. This approach will not save you money in the long term nor make you more competitive.

Hire a lean Manufacturing Consultant to implement Lean Tools

Hire a lean consultant for Lean Tools
Hire a lean consultant for Lean Tools | Source
Hire a manufacturing consultant for Lean Principles
Hire a manufacturing consultant for Lean Principles | Source
Lean consultant for 5S / 5C
Lean consultant for 5S / 5C | Source

Benefits of hiring a Lean Consultant

The benefits of hiring a lean manufacturing consultant to implement lean manufacturing to improve your business processes are many fold, a consultant brings with him a range of experiences from previous Implementations that can help you to ensure that your implementation will be as smooth as possible.

Independent

A consultant is not bound by any internal loyalties or politics that may be there within your company, he will be able to focus on the specifics of the project and not be distracted by the other things that may be going on within your company.

Experienced

A lean manufacturing consultant will have experience of implementing the various lean tools such as 5S or 5C in different situations so will understand how to involve your people and guide them in achieving the best possible results.

Good Facilitator

They will also have the experience of dealing with teams of people and how to get the best from them to achieve results in line with the project at hand.

Additional Support

Most lean consultants will also have people and organizations that they can go to gain additional expert advice and help, contacts in other industries and companies with whom you can share experiences and view successes.

Good Teacher and Coach

A lean manufacturing consultant should also be imparting his knowledge to the members of your teams, his role is not one of dictating what should be done, but one of training and mentoring your people to achieve shared goals.

Respected

An external consultant generally will also be treated with more respect than an internal employee and it also shows the companies dedication towards achieving the goals of the project, after all they are investing large amounts of money!

Help with Finding a Lean Consultant

See “find a lean consultant” for further advice and some hints as to grants, support and what you should pay.

Finding a Lean manufacturing Consultant

The quest to find a lean manufacturing consultant is a relatively simple task in today’s information age, if you put in any number of variations of searches into the main search engines you will be presented with a huge variety of consultants that could help you implement lean.

Trade and business directories both online and “hard” copies will also be able to provide you with options .

Trade publications and business magazines are also a good source of information as to who is out there, again available as physical magazines or on the internet. These often will also give you reviews of various lean manufacturing consultants work, or how particular companies have undergone transformations with the help of xyz consultants.

The other option is recommendations from other business and any networking groups that you may belong to.

Finding a lean consultant is not going to be the hard bit, it should not take long to put together a short list, the hard part will be getting one that can do what you want at the right price reliably.

Lean Consultancy

Specifying your improvement project

Before you select your lean manufacturing consultant you need to understand exactly what it is that you are trying to achieve, you can’t just bring someone in and say make us better!

You need to have a draft specification of what you want to achieve, this should be in the form of specific performance improvements that you feel you need for the business. After all you don’t just want to implement lean, what you actually want as a business is to be more competitive, gain more business, and make more profit!

Never bring in a Consultant with the brief of implementing a specific tool, give them what improvements that you are looking for and ask them to tell you how they will achieve it.

Outcomes not Tools

Don’t create a plan that says implement this tool and that idea, be specific about what you need to do within your business, not how you will do it, that should be down to the consultant to tell you how, they are the experts remember.

So create a specification regarding your business performance, maybe you need to reduce your lead times for manufacturing processes from 6 weeks to 6 days as this will give you a major advantage over your competitors. Maybe a review of your design processes to reduce lead times here by half. Increase output from specific production areas to meet increasing demand, improve efficiencies to allow you to reduce costs for your latest products and so on. Be specific about what you need to achieve for your business so that the consultant knows exactly what you are trying to achieve, they will come up with the how.

Use SMART objectives for your project;

Agree SMART Objectives with Your Consultant

Measures need to be established and objectives as to how you want to improve, these objectives need to be SMART;

  • Specific – Be precise, line A, reduce lead time from 5 weeks to one week
  • Measurable – Define exactly how you will measure, i.e. time for order to receipt.
  • Achievable – The target must stretch people but you must be able to reach it.
  • Relevant – It needs to be an objective that will move the business forward.
  • Time limited – When will this be achieved by, i.e. 1st June, 2013.

These measures should be regularly monitored and displayed in the area of the project, feedback should be from the project team, not just from the consultant.

Hiring a lean manufacturing Consultant

Once you have a short list of potential consultants and a specification for what you want to achieve you need to find out which consultant will be able to deliver what you need.

Choosing your lean manufacturing consultant is much like hiring any other employee, you need to look at their track record and bring them in for an interview. You need to ensure that they have the right amount of experience to do the job, however at this point you may have to make some concessions with regard to the fee, if you are a small company with a limited budget you may have to look at the lower end of the market with less experience rather than the big consultancies, the smaller consultancies or individual consultants may have less impressive credentials but this does not mean that they will be less effective!

Interview Your Consultant

You need to interview to find out if the lean manufacturing consultant is able to the do the job in hand and if they will be a good fit within your organization. The interview does not have to be a simple sit down and chat type affair, use the interview to best effect, most consultants will be happy to spend a day with you developing a proposal. Let them come in, talk to your people, review your operations and at the end give you feedback as to what they think you should do and how

If the lean manufacturing consultant is not willing to do this then maybe they are not serious about getting the job, or maybe they feel that you are not serious about hiring! However this is the best way for you to get your initial project specification developed further and get some feedback as to how you should proceed. If you bring in two or three consultants like this then you can get some really good insights about your business.

Once you have their proposals and have seen how they interact with your people you can then make your decision as to which to go with. Ensure that their proposals include expected payback and so on, a good consultant should be able to estimate the savings that should be made within your business. Also make sure that the person you are dealing with is the person that will be running the project and is not just a salesman and you will end up with the companies junior to do the work!

Check a Consultants References

Check their references before you employ a lean manufacturing consultant, ask them to suggest a couple of companies for which they have worked who would be happy to talk with you. After all if they have done a good job and achieved what they claim their previous clients should be very happy to talk with you and recommend them. If possible visit the companies and look at what they have done and talk to some of the employees there to see what their views are. If things have slipped back, try to find out why the changes were not sustainable.

Hire a lean manufacturing consultant video

Monitoring your Lean Consultants Progress

Once you have gone through the process of hiring your lean manufacturing consultant the real work begins. At the start of the project the first and most important thing to establish is where you are now and where you want to be.

The SMART objectives that you have already established should be monitored prior to beginning the project to create a baseline and then throughout the project and beyond.

The lean consultant must work with your people to establish measures of performance so that you can actually see if you make improvements.

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