Lean manufacturing in India

“Lean manufacturing”:http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lean_manufacturing which forms a triad with “total quality management”:http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Total_Quality_Management and “total productive maintenance”:http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Total_Productive_Maintenance provides modern managements a set of tools to cut costs and provide more value to customers. Many concepts such as Kaizen, Six Sigma, just-in-time (JIT) etc are associated with lean manufacturing which is also known as the Toyota Production System (TPS) developed by the Japanese automobile major, Toyota Motor Company. This article explores lean manufacturing in the context of India.

While there are critics who believe that “Indian companies are yet to adopt this modern management technique”:http://www.beyondlean.com/lean-manufacturing-india.html and is, therefore, lagging behind other global companies, there are others who have begun to predict that the “next Toyota would emerge out of India”:http://www.evolvingexcellence.com/blog/2005/09/the_next_toyota.html and would be an Indian company. There is little doubt that lean manufacturing is yet to become the norm in all Indian manufacturing or service industries, but there is equally little doubt that Indian managements irrespective of the size of the businesses they manage, are going in for lean manufacturing principles in a big way.

While many large Indian companies such as HCL, Wipro or Tata Motors have adopted lean manufacturing principles very successfully, there are a quite a few small and medium scale businesses in India who too have taken up lean manufacturing.
Two years back BusinessWeek in a “special double issue”:http://www.businessweek.com/magazine/toc/05_34/B3948chinaindia.htm on India and China devoted an “entire section”:http://www.businessweek.com/magazine/content/05_34/b3948443.htm on how Indian IT major Wipro and other Indian companies, much like Toyota, are trying to operate in the global market through low prices and a passion for quality and are increasingly leaning towards lean manufacturing.

HCL’s efforts in this direction too have come in for laudatory comments from the global media. One “author”:http://money.cnn.com/2006/04/13/magazines/fortune/fastforward_fortune/index.htm has gone so far as to say: “I have seen the future of management, and it is Indian.” Another “commentator”:http://www.evolvingexcellence.com/blog/2006/04/the_future_of_m.html has pointed out that the company’s efforts are certainly bearing fruit.

Interestingly, this leaning towards lean manufacturing is not the sole reserve of the biggies alone. Smaller companies are not to be left behind. “Rojee Tasha Stampings Ltd,”:http://www.1000ventures.com/business_guide/cs_lean_rts.html a Rs 40 crore company having only 23 employees has successfully introduced lean manufacturing principles to bring about improvements on several fronts.

Similarly, “Thara Engineering,”:http://www.1000ventures.com/business_guide/cs_lean_te.html an Rs 40 lakh SME producing fasteners has also taken up lean manufacturing with stunning results. Yet, another company “Gold Seal Engineering Products Ltd,”:http://www.1000ventures.com/business_guide/cs_lean_gsep.html has taken up lean manufacturing to report significant improvements in their manufacturing process.

What is remarkable about all these companies is the fact that they managed to post these improvements within six months of introducing lean manufacturing methods and did so without any additional capital investments.

These are not isolated cases and more and more Indian companies are adopting lean manufacturing. Yet, stories abound of slip ups and how managers have ending up with muck on the face after initiating a lean transformation. Several factors can contribute to failure of a lean transformation. Management consultant R. Michael Donovan has pointed out some of them in his article “Lean Manufacturing: Is it worth it?”:http://www.rmdonovan.com/articles/PDF_2006_protected/Lean%20Manufacturing%20Is%20It%20Worth%20It.pdf Donovan also provides a lean manufacturing performance evaluation audit, a ready-made “checklist”:http://www.rmdonovan.com/articles/pdf_2005/Lean_Manufacturing_Checklist_pdf.pdf that can help you to assess the current status of your organization and your on-going progress in adopting and adapting to lean manufacturing principles.

There are now many organisations in India offering training courses and programmes in lean manufacturing. One such is the “Indian Institute of Enterprise Management,”:http://www.iiemindia.com/?tcsrc=www.training-classes.com Secunderabad. Worldwide there are several organizations devoted to propagating lean thinking. One of the most well-known is the “Lean Enterprise Institute, USA”:http://www.lean.org/ which has set up the “Lean Global Network.”:http://www.leanuk.org/pages/lean_global_network.htm The Lean Institute India is part of this network.
So, if your organization is still too fat, it is time to sit up. Go lean, now!