The concept of “Lean manufacturing” has been around for a while and many manufacturers are familiar with it. Organizations should always strive to become more Lean and create a culture of continuous improvement.
Unfortunately, there’s also a negative connotation associated with Lean; sometimes when New Jersey’s manufacturers hear the word “Lean,” they immediately think, “cut.”
If you’ve read any business publications or have seen business-related news lately, you’ve also probably encountered the word “innovation.” Innovation is a fantastic word and a critical part of business improvement.
Unfortunately, sometimes the word “innovation” can be overused. The media sometimes portrays innovation as mad scientists in labs drumming up unbelievable technologies. Silicon Valley owns innovation, right?
The characterizations of “Lean” and “innovation” could lead some people to think they are opposing forces…. Lean, meaning to cut everything…and innovation, meaning to grow everything through expensive technologies. However, when it boils down to your everyday NJ manufacturer, Lean and innovation should both be embraced to drive growth.
First, let’s take a look at Lean. For the record, Lean isn’t just going around and giving jobs and costs the axe. Every company has necessary expenses. The goal of Lean is to eliminate what’s unnecessary in your business. And that’s why Lean Six Sigma is so powerful – it’s a system designed to identify and eliminate what’s unnecessary…what doesn’t add value to your customers. It’s all about increasing efficiencies and effectiveness to improve productivity and profitability. (You can learn more about Lean Six Sigma by clicking here.)
Now, let’s take a look at innovation. Innovation’s objective is to drive growth. For example, there’s an Innovation Engineering Management System (IEMS). IEMS is a program developed by the U.S. Department of Commerce’s NIST-MEP System in conjunction with The Eureka Ranch in order to provide manufacturers with a systematic and sustainable approach to develop new products, marketing concepts, and/or process improvements. The goal is to reduce the risks often associated with new developments and create an ongoing pipeline of new ideas. (For more information,click here.)
However, innovation is more than just an official program – innovation is about finding new approaches to better solve your problems. Creating more effective processes is in fact innovative.
This is how they work together. Let’s say that you’re a small NJ manufacturer. You’re getting hit with higher production costs. You could just reduce expenses or lay-off workers. This would address your problem. Or, you could adopt Lean Six Sigma. It would help you reduce the unnecessary costs and resources in your production cycle. You could take those saved resources and invest them into R&D, new product developments and other initiatives that will help you increase sales such as a new website. Simply put, you can use innovation to become more Lean, and by becoming more Lean, you can become more innovative.
Lean and Innovation aren’t opposite sides of the spectrum. You need both to help your business grow and become more profitable!