There are many differences between implementing Lean manufacturing without your staff vs implementing it with them. Those differences come down to how much engagement leaders can generate from their teams.

According to a recent survey, 67% of employees are either not engaged or actively disengaged. Why is this important? Consider that a study concluded that the estimated annual cost of employee disengagement to the U.S. economy is between $450 and $500 billion. The study estimated that an individual disengaged employee can cost a company up to $3,400 per year for every $10,000 of salary.

As you can see disengagement has significant consequences. Nonetheless, there are leaders that use an authoritarian approach when rolling out new initiatives. This usually does not go well and fosters disengagement. Employees need to feel they are part of the solution and that they have a say in how they perform their work. For many, it is a source of pride. Most employees come to work every day wanting to learn and with a desire to do a good job.

Manufacturing leaders can help increase engagement in their Lean manufacturing implementation by educating them on the Lean principles. Here are five reasons to train your employees on Lean principles:

  1. Bench strength – Understanding the Lean principles will inherently enhance your team’s abilities. Skills such as being data driven, solving problems, and eliminating waste will enable them to grow. As the health of your culture develops, you will want to have more internal promotions. Building their skills will give you a pool of candidates that will know your business, fit your culture, and have skills to drive improvements.
  2. Improved Performance – No one in a manufacturing business understands their challenges as much as the people that perform the work. Lean manufacturing principles will lead your team to focus on eliminating waste from your processes. Enabling and empowering them to eliminate these obstacles will inevitably lead to better quality, shorter lead times, and ultimately better financial results (e.g. cash position, profitability, working capital, etc.).


Girl in a jacket

  1. Engaged workforce – The effects of a disengaged workforce are significant, as you read above. When employees feel empowered, they come to work motivated and this impacts their tenure. According to a Gallup study, workplaces with higher employee engagement see 67% lower turnover.
  2. Cultural impact – Training and engaging your employees will have a rippling effect throughout your culture. As your team realizes they can affect change, they will grow excited and become advocates for continuous improvements. If skeptics or disengaged employees remain, these advocates will naturally influence them in a positive way and thus increase their engagement.
  3. Become a learning organization – Many employees feel the opportunities for advancement in the workplace are scarce. Your employees are interested in their development. After all they have careers and aspirations. From the company’s perspective, having employees that understand the Lean manufacturing principles implies that they are always open to and curious about better ways of doing things. The effect of this is that employees consistently grow their knowledge and experience and the business adapts constantly to their market. This creates a competitive advantage against your competition.

Manufacturing companies with higher employee engagement usually perform better. According to the Gallup study companies with high engagement have 17% higher productivity and 20% higher sales than companies with lower levels of engagement.

Consider spreading the knowledge of these principles to your entire workforce, especially with your leaders. I will leave you with a quote from Richard Branson: “Train people well enough so they can leave; treat them well enough so they don’t want to.”

Are you ready to develop a team of problem solvers? Schedule a time to discuss your goals.

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