Have Advice for This Guy?


    Lean in the Folding Box Environment

    Here was a post on the LeanBlog Message Board, thought it was worth sharing to see who has feedback:

    “Cartonhead” wrote:

    As a current student in the school of Lean, I work for a company that manufactures folding boxes. We are currently working through a bootcamp to teach us the basics, but I have questions for anyone who would be willing to assist me.

    We are not an “assembly line” factory. We may print something one day, die cut it later, strip it out even later and finish it in a month. Our plant layout is set, hastily designed over 20 years ago, we cannot move equipment to lessen travel times. We are working with a software system that was purchased two years ago and isn't quite what we had hoped. And, to top it off, many of our employees are dead-set in their ways and will resist change at every turn. Every piece of knowledge we gain in our camp seems to have either no implementation value here or seems almost contrary to the way the plant has been designed to run.

    I was wondering if there was anyone else out there who could relate. I know there are numerous folding box companies that have been successful in their implementation and I would love to know how they do it.

    If you have thoughts to share, click comments or you can reply on the Message Board.

    Also, with the Message Board, there was a job posting put out there (“Lean Manufacturing Manager“). I'd encourage others to do the same. The Board is free to read, but you must join (also free) to post.

    Please check out my main blog page at www.leanblog.org

    The RSS feed content you are reading is copyrighted by the author, Mark Graban.

    , , , on the author's copyright.

    What do you think? Please scroll down (or click) to post a comment. Or please share the post with your thoughts on LinkedIn – and follow me or connect with me there.

    Did you like this post? Make sure you don't miss a post or podcast — Subscribe to get notified about posts via email daily or weekly.

    Check out my latest book, The Mistakes That Make Us: Cultivating a Culture of Learning and Innovation:

    Get New Posts Sent To You

    Select list(s):
    Previous articleIs "Genchi" Taken?
    Next articleThe Old "New Manufacturing Challenge"
    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.


    1. Looks like your positioned to fold! Sorry…couldn’t resist.

      My advice for anyone starting out on Lean is to investigate TWI. The three TWI J-Programs provide essential foundational skills for any lean transformation.

      There are a few ways TWI can help:

      Resistance to change…most people resist change because they do not agree that the change is an improvement. Many times they’re right. Also when asked why even good change is hard, they commonly say poor communication creates misunderstandings and hard feelings.

      2 of the J-Programs can help here. At its core, Job Instruction is a communication tool. Training is really communication, and good communication through training is the key to implementing good change. It also puts the responsibility for good communication on the leader. The motto is: If the person hasn’t learned, the instructor hasn’t taught. At Toyota this is a leadership culture that says it is the leaders respobsibility to insure first that the change being made is a good one (benefits the worker and the customer), and then to make sure that everyone involved in the change gets proper training. In short, the leader is the teacher.

      Job Instruction is the foundation of Toyota’s system of standardized work. After using JI for some time now, it is hard to see how any standardized work implementation could work without it.

      Job Relations is another tool that really helps the resistance to change problem. As I mentioned, people that have concerns about a change are commonly correct. Job Relations is a method to respond to concerns in a structured approach that resolves problems by analyzing the facts. The first step is to get the facts by listening carefully to a person’s concern. Next some options for a solution are developed, the facts are weighed and a decision is made. Then the plan for implementing the decision and following up are developed. Many times, legitimate concerns that people have about “bad change” are surfaced in this process so that the “bad” parts can be corrected, creating “good change” for everyone. Then JI is used to implement the change smoothly.

      The JR motto is: People Must Be Treated As Individuals. At Toyota it helped influence their philosophy point #2 – People Are The Most Valuable Resource. JR is used as a method to bring this philosophy into practice every day. Its a great “listening” tool.

      Improvements without rearrangements…in the WWII enviornment that TWI was developed, there was not time to envision a new factory layout or new machines to solve problems. They had to make due with what they had.

      The definition of Job Methods is (circa 1942): A practical plan to help you produce greater quantities of quality products in less time by making the best use of the manpower, machines, and materials now available.

      The idea was that a lot could be done by implementing many small ideas to improve efficiency. JM provides people with simple tools to observe the current work, break it down, and design an improved future state by questioning every detail. It can be used by anyone in any workplace, and its simplicity is a thing of beauty.

      Many people credit JM as being the foundation of Kaizen…many small improvements made by the people doing the work.

      Here are some links for more info on TWI:


      Join us at the TWI Summit in Disney June 5-6:

      Free webinar March 21:

      Sorry for the novel. Writing about TWI helps me internalize it myself. Thanks for helping!

    2. Thanks for your “novel.” Good thoughts. I understand how writing helps you internalize and articulate lean concepts… that’s one major benefit I get from running this blog.

    3. “we are not an ‘assembly line’ factory.” You are in good company. There are very few manufacturers that can boast of flow within their plants. Don’t feel bad about your current state of affairs.

      “we print something one day, die cut it later, strip it out even later and finish it in a month.” That’s strange, the manufacturing of folding boxes sounds just like making cars, toys, equipment, electrical control cabinets, batteries and semiconductor wafers! Again, you are not alone in this world, my friend.

      “Our plant layout is set, hastily designed over 20 years ago,” I’m in a well established plant (built in the mid-fifties) with equipment under two years old, in a self-described “lean” company. If I didn’t know any better, I’d say I am in a folding box factory!

      “we are working with a software system that was purchased two years ago and isn’t quite what we had hoped.” It never will be with current finance and accounting processes having educational and industry dominance over lean thinking. You are swimming against 150 years of institutionalized thinking transfered into the software development industry. But, this makes sense when one thinks about it, right? The majority of manufacturer’s do not run their books in a lean fashion, why would we demand software that has lean accounting built in?

      “And, to top it off, many of our employees are dead-set in their ways and resist change at every turn.” This is human nature, we like routines. If you want change to happen, you need managers that will lead people through change.

      “Every piece of knowledge we gain seems to have either no implementation value or seems almost contrary to the way the plant has been designed to run.” A) It seems like it has no value because you have not implemented it yet. B) It seems contrary to current plant designs because Lean Thinking wasn’t used to design the plant. C) Lean Thinking is contrary to the current thinking used to operate your plant.

      “we cannot move equipment to lessen travel times.” This last statement is the problem.

      You CAN move equipment, it’s just that nobody WANTS to move it.

      You CAN figure out a way to make the software work do what you need it to. Software does not make you a lean company.

      You CAN lead people through change, it may be that your leaders don’t know how to or don’t think that it is important to be a lean thinking company. This would be contrary of course, since putting two machines together doesn’t make you lean either. People who are thinking about problem solving and continuously improving the process, however, does get you closer to being able to say you are thinking lean.

      Good luck to you…

    4. As they say in the orange aprons (if you can find one that knows the difference between a light bulb and a plant bulb…but that’s a whole other topic):

      YOU can do it, WE can help!

      TWI is a great way to generate the grass roots interest you need to start moving mountains.

      It gives you that feeling like you are on top of a big bulldozer pushing all the waste to the side while you head for True North (highest quality, shortest lead time, lowest cost…through human development)!

      Hop on, start that engine, and enjoy the ride!

    5. Another point on this post…

      It seems to me you have not figured out what problem you are trying to solve with Lean.

      If you can’t create flow, there must be “no problem” with the current batch and queue (assumed by your description of process steps separated by days) system.

      If you can’t move the equipment, there must be “no problem” where it is.

      If the people won’t change, there must be “no problem” with the status quoue.

      In the words of a wise Sensai, “No Problem is Big Problem”.

      It would be good to understand which problems (we all have many) you are trying to solve with your Lean bootcamp training. Start by asking your customers. Go ahead, just call and ask. They’ll tell you a lot.

      Otherwise, taking people off the floor and spending money on a trainer is just waste!

      My 2 more cents…


    Please enter your comment!
    Please enter your name here

    This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.