Misconceptions between Lean and DFT…
Originally, this month’s blog post was going to be an excerpt from our upcoming book. However, after visiting a number of new clients and noticing an interesting trend over the past few months, I have changed my mind. The trend I have noticed is the common misconception with DFT and Lean. As a certified Lean Six Sigma Master BlackBelt as well as a Certified Demand Flow Instructor, I am uniquely trained to see the value, pros and cons of both. People who have little or no previous experience of DFT expect it to have a small project like approach, similar to Lean, and believe it is one or the other. After we explain the difference and how fast DFT can create flow, people are blown away with the power that DFT provides.
Let me explain the main points with of each methodology.
First let’s discuss Lean. Its core idea is to maximize customer value while minimizing waste (Womack and Jones, 2003). In other words, the goal of Lean is to profitably service the customer. Essentially you base you’re thinking on an activity level identifying waste that is inadvertently generated by the way the process is organized. Each time the activity or process is organized through the five principles:
- Define the value (value to the customer)
- Identify the value stream
- Establish flow
- Initiate work when required by the customer
- Continuous Improvement
Lean takes an activity by activity approach to achieve its goal. The output of each activity is a small incremental improvement achieved through the application of the tools within the Lean toolbox. Typically, you would improve a workstation, operation or sub-process by eliminating the bottlenecks and reducing waste through specific tools, or running a massive 6S project, etc. Typically after a year or more you will have a Lean environment where you have achieved a number of small incremental improvements along the way.
With DFT, we take a slightly different approach. DFT is a complete business strategy that drives companies to adjust their process volume and mix every day based on true customer demand; actual sales. The premise behind DFT is that a process is at its most profitable state when it has achieved balance enabling flow to meet the specific customer needs. See how this statement is similar to that of Lean?
When it comes to implementation, DFT looks at the process or environment as a whole and using math and science to completely redesign the process to achieve an Operational Cycle Time that is based on the Demand at Capacity. This is where the differences between DFT and Lean begin. A typical DFT implementation will take 4 to 6 months to complete. During the course of implementation there are no small incremental projects, instead we follow a structured path that can be utilized in every situation where DFT is implemented. Essentially DFT is a single tool that derives step change improvements rather than incremental improvements from the application of multiple tools like Lean.
Another misconception is that Lean and DFT don’t play well together. Let’s just look at the facts; DFT is Demand Driven like Lean; DFT uses Demand to synchronize a process which is also a principle of Lean; and finally DFT is all about flow, which is the third principle of Lean. In fact, some of the most successful Lean programs use DFT as their foundation to establish flow and then take advantage of the Lean methodology to drive continuous improvement and a different way of thinking.
So after talking to a number of new clients over the last few months, I thought this blog post would be a great way to remind those that understand DFT and have witnessed the step change improvements it delivers time and time again, that DFT and Lean actually have a lot in common. Next time you are talking with a colleague or a new contact you will be able to help them understand the difference between DFT and Lean as well as showing how both are also aligned.
Let us know if you have further questions and feel free to post comments on your thoughts.