Lean Manufacturing Doesn’t Overlook or Compromise Safety

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In the article “Occupational Hazards – Keep It Lean and Safe,” the author says, in part:

“In the worst-case scenario, an overzealous company may implement extreme Lean Manufacturing strategies where safety is not merely overlooked, but compromised.

I don't this should be called “extreme Lean”… it's either “bad lean” or “not lean.”

I agree, of course, that safety should be a major focus of any lean initiative. I don't think the main focus should be “reducing the waste” that is associated with safety and ergonomic problems, although that is part of the equation.

I have found that focusing on safety and ergonomics sends a powerful message to oft-neglected production associates — that management values you and that it's important that people go home in the same condition they arrived in. By focusing maintenance resources, attention, and dollars on fixing safety issues, it can build trust between workers and management.

Focusing on safety and ergonomics is clearly the “right” thing to do, if that fits your value structure. But, once you can build that trust, your production people will probably be more forthcoming with improvement ideas and will have the confidence that they are doing so in a safe environment. What do you think?


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Mark Graban
Mark Graban is an internationally-recognized consultant, author, and professional speaker, and podcaster with experience in healthcare, manufacturing, and startups. Mark's new book is The Mistakes That Make Us: Cultivating a Culture of Learning and Innovation. He is also the author of Measures of Success: React Less, Lead Better, Improve More, the Shingo Award-winning books Lean Hospitals and Healthcare Kaizen, and the anthology Practicing Lean. Mark is also a Senior Advisor to the technology company KaiNexus.

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