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Lean Manufacturing Consulting

Updated on August 29, 2013
LeanMan profile image

I am a trainer and consultant in Lean Manufacturing, Six Sigma, quality management, and business management.

Why you need Lean Consulting

Lean Manufacturing consulting is what you need if you are looking to improve your business and better service your customers. Lean consulting is about working with companies to implement lean philosophies and the tools of lean manufacturing to improve a companies processes and competitiveness.

If you are an experienced Lean Practitioner who wants to move into consultancy then you should read this hub about how to become a lean manufacturing consultant.

The skills and knowledge required to implement lean manufacturing are huge, lean covers many tools and the ideas behind lean require many different skills that can only be developed with experience. Therefore to implement lean successfully a company requires someone who has these skills and the experience, someone that they are unlikely to have in house so they need to hire in this expertise in the form of a lean consultant to train and coach their people in implementing lean.

Bringing in an experienced consultant also brings in a huge array of skills and ideas from other industries and companies that you would otherwise never be aware of. Hiring in lean consulting skills can be a huge benefit to your organization.

This Hub will look at the different types of consultancies offering lean manufacturing consulting and discuss the pros and cons of each type.

Lean Manufacturing Consulting

Lean Manufacturing Consulting, Principles of Lean
Lean Manufacturing Consulting, Principles of Lean | Source
Lean Manufacturing Consulting, Waste Elimination
Lean Manufacturing Consulting, Waste Elimination | Source
Lean Manufacturing Consulting, 5S Implementation
Lean Manufacturing Consulting, 5S Implementation | Source

What is lean manufacturing?

As a reminder, lean manufacturing is a business improvement philosophy that has developed over many years. Its main aim is to define value as seen by the customer and make that value flow at the customers pull without it being delayed or held in inventory. Lean requires the involvement of all staff at all levels in the organization in a drive for continual improvement in everything that you do.

Lean manufacturing will help you to improve profit through waste reduction, eliminating the seven wastes within your processes through implementing Just in Time flow, 5S, SMED and other ideas that form the backbone of lean.

Types of Lean Manufacturing consulting companies | Pros and Cons

There are many types of lean manufacturing consultancies and consultants out there looking for your business, the following sections will discuss the pros and cons of hiring each type. These are my own personal opinions which I have put together over many years working both within companies implementing lean and as a lean consultant working for a number of varied organizations as well as for myself.

As with any investment (hiring a lean manufacturing consultant is a very good investment if done right!) do your own investigation and ensure that you hire the right people for the job.

Lean manufacturing Consulting in Action

Lean manufacturing Consulting in action
Lean manufacturing Consulting in action | Source
Lean Manufacturing Consulting Results
Lean Manufacturing Consulting Results | Source

Independant Lean Manufacturing Consulting

This is probably one of the most varied groups of individuals that can provide Lean Manufacturing Consulting services to your company. There are many individuals around the world who have set themselves up as business improvement consultants specializing in implementing the tools and philosophies of Lean. The skill levels and abilities of these consultants vary enormously from downright incompetent to totally amazing! The problem is telling the difference! See my hub hire a lean consultant for more advice on selecting and hiring the right one.

There are a multitude of reasons why people become consultants, from wanting their own business to have control of their own destiny to having been made jobless and trying to find a route to making money.

The Advantages of hiring an Independent Lean Consultant

The advantages of this type of consultant can be huge, if you find the right one. Generally they are committed to doing a good job, their reputation and future earning potentials are on the line if they let you down.

They can be very flexible with what they do, being able to step in and help in other areas of the business as required and often at odd times. They are more often than not more flexible with regard to cost although they still will not be cheap, after all they are looking to make a senior professionals wages in the space of half a months work (the other half being spent on sales and promotion) with overheads to cover. However they are still going to be considerably less expensive than going to one of the big consultancy firms.

There are some real diamonds out there to be found when it comes to sourcing your lean consultancy, If you can find the right person you will likely benefit more than you would if you went to the bigger companies although you do have to find that right person first!

Disadvantages of Hiring an Independent Lean Consultant

The downside is the varied levels of skills available, often the reason for choosing the independent consultant is one of cost, and you get what you pay for, sometimes you are however very lucky and manage to find the real diamond who is trying to make his name, but often you end up with the smooth talking unemployed wise guy who is looking to make enough money till he talks his way into another job.

The independent consultant also tends to lack backup, with few resources to call on if he needs help.

The secret with hiring an independent lean manufacturing consultant is in doing your homework, check his credentials thoroughly and check previous implementations. Hiring someone without any history can be a very costly mistake.

Go through their resume very thoroughly and check any references that they provide. If you can meet with previous clients to see how they performed.

Partnership or Small Lean Manufacturing Consultancy

These are on the whole very similar to hiring an independent consultant, the pros and cons are very similar. The added benefit of hiring from a small lean manufacturing consulting firm is that they will have backup and more support than the independent.

They will also generally have a better level of history, as they all want to maintain their viability as a business with a good reputation. My personal opinion is that this is a better option than the independent as you have the added factor of peer review within the consultancy which will not tolerate poor workmanship on the part of the others.

Lean Manufacturing Consulting Video

Commercial Lean Manufacturing Consulting

By this I mean the large "for profit" lean manufacturing consulting firms that often cover many different disciplines including lean.


The large commercial consultancies hire well educated individuals with experience to lead their projects or train up new consultants by pairing them with the experienced lead consultants. The chances of getting a consultant who does not know what he is doing are very slim. These consultancies are generally very effective and very professional. They more often than not have a long track history of successful implementations. These guys can implement a very successful long term project, with a lot of support.


The downside in my opinion (after the cost) is that they often focus on the short term gains for the company as they have to quickly justify their cost. The consultants themselves are also measured on their ability to earn, so being able to sell lean using quick financial gains drives this behavior. Having a consultant or team of consultants that you are paying many of thousands of dollars to sit around trying to change your culture to ensure successful sustainable implementation in a few months is not generally seen as a good investment. Most companies expect to see immediate significant benefit when they make this level of investment. This often leads to implementations that are not sustainable long term.

Government | Not for Profit | Academic

These have differing motivations for what they do, but generally they have the best interests of the company at heart. The individuals employed can be of a similar level employed by the commercial consultancies and more often than not just as pushy and as success oriented as these other lean manufacturing consulting firms.

Lean Manufacturing Consulting Video

Government Funded Lean Manufacturing Consulting

These initiatives can be good if you find the right consultant, treat these guys as if they are an independent and research their background in much the same way. They are often cheap if not totally funded by government money or through grant applications.

I was involved in a couple of government initiatives in the UK, one was staffed by almost all retired bank managers who had little idea of actually running a business and how to improve processes and the other initiative that was run by manufacturing professionals that really targeted business improvements for the good of the companies. However the latter was originally run through a local government body and a university and was really focused on the businesses, but was later awarded to a commercial consultancy who just wanted to tick the boxes and make the numbers with inexperienced consultants. So check the individual carefully!

Not for Profit | Academic Consulting

Often these guys can be the best people to go to, they are not generally as expensive as the commercial consultancies and the consultants are in it for the project not for the money. As with government consultancies, some of the projects can be free, inexpensive or funded through grants. However expect to give something in return such as student placement, looking after a number of rookie consultants, or lots of PR and hosting of events after the project (This can be as good for you as the consultancy.)

The downside is that some of the people involved are “academics”, they have little idea of how to motivate and interact with people outside of the class room. Ensure that they have run successful projects and are not just pure theoreticians. They are also not generally motivated by time, so they will often take twice as long with far more in depth education of your workforce, not such a bad thing for the long term, but some see the results as too long in coming.

Lean six Sigma Consulting


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