Magazine article Management Services

Lean Is Not Necessarily Mean

Magazine article Management Services

Lean Is Not Necessarily Mean

Article excerpt

Despite its poor reputation for worker well-being, Japanese-inspired production systems may not generate high levels of stress and absenteeism in UK factories, according to new research based on interviews with hundreds of workers.

A three-year investigation by leading academics at Lancaster and Cambridge Universities reveals that 'Lean Production methods' - which is becoming the global competitive standard in manufacturing could help improve some of the more stressful elements of working in a modern production line, while ensuring higher quality and productivity.

As readers will know, Lean Production aims to reduce waste at all levels of the organisation and drive up efficiency by exposing weak points in the production system. This tends to increase intensity, and force a more efficient way of working. But lean factories are also designed to be efficient with carefully thought out workspaces, effective, easily accessed tools and an engaged workforce - remedying significant causes of stress.

The study, based on information from 1,391 factory workers across a range of industries in the UK, showed that inappropriate tools, poor ergonomie design and lack of control over their own working hours were some of the things workers found particularly stressful. Another major stressor, blame for defects, is particularly problematic in high performance organisations since worker involvement is a key element in continuous improvement and process excellence programmes.

One of the more surprising results was that while Lean methods bring about increased stress in workers in the short term, in the longer term the stress levels fall back again. …

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