Using an LTS to Sustain Lean Manufacturing Benefits

What’s an LTS? It’s the acronym for Lean Transformation Software. While LTS is not as well-known as other acronyms in our industry like ERP, CRM, MRP, PowerBI, etc – it should be – because LTS or Lean Transformation Software is the key to creating and sustaining a long-term lean manufacturing results. I've been bringing lean software and lean principles to complex manufacturers for 15 years now. My perspective was that the lean community was woefully under served by software and so we endeavored to fill the void. As we apply software in many companies to support their lean transformation efforts, our solutions have continued to evolve. I've presented (and defended) software for lean to literally hundreds of companies and done my fair share of quoting Ohno, Shingo, and the rest. I’ve had opportunities to dialogue personally with prominent thought leaders in lean worldwide. I get it that lean manufacturing is more than takt, flow, pull, and leveling and so I’ve repented of a “tools only” mindset and now see both tools and people as equally essential elements. shutterstock_628146863 (1)

Plan Do Check Act Cycle

Yet another perspective on lean is that lean is an implementation of the Plan-Do-Check-Act (PDCA) cycle. With deep roots from Deming, Crosby, Juran, et al, the key is to establish a culture and tools to enable and reinforce continuous improvement. Quantum leaps forward happen only occasionally since they require the flash of brilliant insight. But brilliant ideas come only every so often.

Continuous incremental improvement however is possible every day by every worker in every process. How can this process be enabled by lean software?

Plan – Future state design is the planning side of PDCA. Starting from our current state, we design a leaner future state and identify the specific improvements needed in our processes to be able to implement that future state. Skills in this area are value stream mapping, takt time and interval calculations, operator balancing, buffering strategies, determining product families of similar groups of processes. This is the focus for our Areteium software offering.

Do – Running our operation based on our future state design is the Do stage. This is where it all has to come together with people, material, equipment, processes and information. From a software perspective, this is clearly the domain of an ERP system like Microsoft Dynamics AX that comes with very strong lean manufacturing functionality out of the box.

Check – Checking is something that we do all the time in a continuous improvement mindset. We check our work product, we check our processes, we have metrics or standards that we compare to. And we look for deviations. The goal in checking is to identify issues that we need to focus on for improvement. This is business analytics, mining the data from our actual performance to look for opportunities to improve.

Act – Since our original Future State created by the Plan stage has become our current state in the Do stage, the Adjust stage is the design of a next future state requiring all of the same skills and software as in the Plan stage.

As I’ve reflected on this, it’s clear that the collection of skills and software needed to support the Plan stage is fundamentally different than either an ERP or a BI solution and cannot simply be tacked on to either one. Rather, this should be considered as its own class of software which we call Lean Transformation Software or LTS.

An LTS is an integrated suite of lean design and modeling software tools based on a deep repository of lean data and metrics. Our Areteium Lean Transformation Software is the leading offering in this new class of software although other products are beginning to emerge.

It’s time to add a new acronym for LTS which when paired with ERP and BI becomes a complete solution for technology enabled lean transformation and continuous improvement.

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Author: Phil Coy, Director, Strategic Services – MCA Connect