A lean champion is a person who is an operations or business specialist who has studied, or attained substantial practical experience in the many facets of the lean production system, process improvement, and the many lean manufacturing techniques, as well as superior problem solving skills in different areas of a business. In many businesses lean champions hold some qualification in lean six sigma such as a black belt or master black belt.
Lean champions usually have an engineering or business background, some lean champions may have experience in operations or continuous process improvement consulting or are highly skilled process and/or production employees that have a deep understanding of not only lean manufacturing but the challenges facing the business in its specific industry.
It will take a considerable amount of time, experience and effort to become a true lean champion as the requirements of such a role are to provide not only technical expertise in the implementation of lean manufacturing initiatives, performing high level analysis such as FMEA's and delivering efficiencies across the value stream but also educating and imparting knowledge to members of their team. Many lean champions have had experience in the auto industry namely Toyota or in other organizations which utilize and have made lean manufacturing and continuous improvement part of their culture and way they do business.
The roles of the Lean Champion
Lean champions may have varying levels of experience, education and qualifications which will usually affect the strategy and focus of their roles with an organization but generally the Lean champion will focus and lead teams on some or all of the following areas:
Lead problem solving initiatives, Process and production problems arise every day, but the success rests on working as a team in a structured way to solve these problems. The key in effective structured problem solving is to follow the process chosen as it is quite easy to jump to a solution without considering some contributing factors or hard to detect causes. Many service industries such as banks and service companies have adapted these techniques and structured problem solving processes from the manufacturing industry.
Lead 5s and Housekeeping, An organized and clean workplace or business is a successful one; processes are clearer, wasted resources and excess inventory are clearer, tools and equipment is in the right place and ready to be used. 5S and good housekeeping gives employees a good feeling as well to work in a clean and organized place boosting productivity.
Improve process flow and bottlenecks, bottlenecks and process problems may manifest themselves in delays, excess inventory and WIP, quality problems and customer complaints to name a few. The lean champion will use different analysis and improvement frameworks to tackle the root cause of these issues to achieve smoother material and data flows to reduce these problems.
Lead Improvements in quality; process and production quality should start at the source or start of the supply chain, it relies on being able to execute the production or value added process by skilled operators with the right tools and equipment in good condition. Lean champions lead initiatives in achieving these fundamental steps as well as a regimented quality checking and auditing system, or improving it if it is already in place.
Mentor team members in Lean and process improvement; spreading the knowledge and changing cultures in organizations are probably the most valuable impact a lean champion can deliver an organization as a leader. It can also be the toughest to achieve. Mentoring and leading team members on using the different lean manufacturing techniques and continuous improvement rules through actively leading projects, problem solving sessions and empowering others to participate and lead help in creating this impact.
These are the main areas where Lean champions can make a lasting impact but are not the only areas where lean leadership roles play an important part in an organization, many times lean champions help fill in production or process management roles and senior management positions once they attain business skills and knowledge.
More lean concepts and terms