3 Ways Lean Manufacturing Is Building a Better World
At Lyall, we’ve been using lean manufacturing practices to build a better company for going on 20 of our almost 50 years in business. So, we’ve seen the impact lean thinking can have on everything from quality of life for our employees to quality of products for our customers. But, what’s even better, we’re starting to see all kinds of ways lean manufacturing is helping make our world a safer and healthier place to live. Here are three ways we think are particularly encouraging.
#1 Getting Rid of Sweatshops
No one likes to think about their existence. But we’ve almost come to accept that sweatshops, with their horrible conditions and astounding labor abuses, are just an inevitable consequence of a global market. Fortunately, thanks to lean manufacturing, it’s looking like that might not be the case after all.
A few years ago, Nike, Inc. decided to experiment with lean production practices in its apparel division with hopes of improving workplace conditions in the developing world. In an article on the Harvard Business Review website last year, researcher Greg Distelhorst wrote about what his team discovered after analyzing the results so far. Distelhorst reported that, “On average, serious violations of labor standards fell by fifteen percentage points, from 40% of factories to 25%. These labor compliance ratings primarily reflect factory wages, benefits and rest days—important issues that shape workers’ take-home pay and work-life balance.”
These kinds of experiments are popping up around the globe, making a big difference in quality of life for hundreds of thousands of families.
#2 Helping Governments Run Better
The public sector has always had a tough time keeping pace with the private sector when it comes to money. But many local governments in the U.S., and even around the world, are implementing lean processes to address the problem—and with great results. The practices are building better processes and systems capable of delivering better education, health care and public transportation for the people. Lean thinking applied anywhere increases overall productivity and quality while saving money; in a government setting, that means more dollars can then be allocated to improvements, and it becomes a very nice cycle of success.
The State of California has even created an official organization, called the Eureka Institute, that’s dedicated to supporting lean practices at the local and state legislative levels. If you’re interested in learning more, you can check out the Eureka Institute website here.
#3 Supporting Innovation
Kiva is one of our favorite feel-good lean stories. This non-profit was designed from the ground-up using lean principles to support innovation around the globe, particularly in developing communities whose people have very little access to monetary resources. The program is actually using lean startup principles to fight poverty through microfinance—not only funding innovation in communities all over, but also creating what they call “partnerships of mutual dignity” between the lenders and borrowers. Check out Kiva’s website if you’re curious to learn more or if you’re just in the mood for inspiration.
Do you know any other ways lean is helping to build a better world? We’d love to hear about any and all! Keep the conversation going in the comments section below.