Saturday, May 29, 2010

Hire a Lean Manufacturing Consultant

One of the most efficient ways of how to implement lean manufacturing is to hire a lean manufacturing consultant, but you need to think long and hard, just choosing your friend from the golf course could be a very expensive option.

Your first step has to be to decide what you really want to do, do you want to implement the whole lean philosophy or are you just looking to implement a specific tool such as 5S in a particular area of your factory. Be very clear about what you are looking for and what the limitations are of what you want to do.

Don’t expect long term gains from implementing specific tools if you don’t look at the overall philosophy behind the program! If you don’t work on the support and motivation then implementing small pockets of improvement may be short lived.

Don’t choose a consultant to implement lean manufacturing just based on his CV or Resume, I have read some really wonderful CVs over the years but they have often been very different from reality, after all why do we then interview people for the positions that we are offering? Choosing a consultant is no different in this respect, first you need to gather your CVs, then you need to interview to see who will be the best fit for the job in hand.

Where can you find your consultants to shortlist? Well, here on line is a very good place to start, many leading consultants and consultancies have presences here on the web, either full blown websites or simple blogs. Look in your trade magazines also and talk to other businesses. It should not take long to get a shortlist together, look for those consultants that have implemented a good range of projects, if you are looking for a long term project look to see that they have managed them in the past, many consultants just go in for the quick hit type projects.

How to choose a lean manufacturing consultant from your shortlist, same as any other job, invite them in for an interview. Don’t just bring them in for a chat though, use them! If they are serious about working for you and they are as good as they say they are, they will spend a good day with you to map out what they can do for you. Invite them in for a day with an aim to review what you do and what improvements they can recommend. Let them identify your key people, meet with them, observe what you do and give you an action plan for implementation with justification and payback! If they won’t do it or they want paying to do it, are they serious? And remember you are hiring a consultant not the whole company, you should be looking at the person that will be working with you, not the salesman!

Obviously if you are only after a couple of days of their time then they are not likely to be willing to do this, but if you are serious about implementing lean and looking to develop a long term relationship then they should be all too willing to do this. After all it gives them an opportunity to prove themselves to you, and for them to get a feeling as to whether they will want to work with you, I have refused to work with companies in the past because I know that they are not serious about making improvement! No consultant worth his salt is going to want to work with a company if there is no chance of success, the damage to their reputation is too great!

When you feel that you have your list down to the final one or two, ask to talk to some of their past clients. If they have the experience they claim and have made the successes then they will have no problem with this. Go and visit to see what they have done, after all seeing is believing. If they can’t show you anything, have they ever achieved anything? Look at older projects, not just recent achievements, one of the failings of many consultants are that they do not implement sustainable change.

Look at their proposals, are they clear? Are the objectives clearly written and in your mind achievable, have they identified the gains you will make in monetary terms? At the end of the day you are in business to make money, you will be implementing lean to help you towards this aim, the consultant should be able to identify the potential gains to your bottom line from specific actions.

Any project that you run must have clear goals and objectives, it must also have a clear monetary improvement figure for your business, after all you want to make sure that you will benefit more than you will spend through implementing the project!

If you can’t find a consultant with an extensive provable background but you have someone that you feel is a good fit with the company but are unsure about the fee discuss paying on results! If they are as good as they say they are they will be happy to work for a minimum subsistence fee with a “bonus” for successful implementation, but make sure the aims of any project are very clear!

The above should give you some good ideas about how to choose a lean manufacturing consultant. It is like choosing any other employee or supplier, have a clear idea of what you want to achieve, let them show how they can do it and give you their proposals, and give them a trial where necessary.

1 comment:

  1. I agree whole heartedly with Tony you need to think about where you are going before you go out and hire a consultant. I would suggest one other thing to do before hiring the consultant.

    Learn as much as you can about Lean and the tools first, there is a wealth of free and affordable Lean material and training, use it first. Second get as many of your people educated as you can via the same route. After that armed with some knowledge consider what help your business needs and hire a consultant, take a lot of notes when talking to them, so you do not need to ask things over and over. The more you know going in the better job you will do choosing a consultant, and the more value you will get for your consulting dollar, because you do not waste their time teaching you basics.