Is lean anti-technology?
It shouldn’t be. But a lean organization also doesn’t adopt technology for technology’s sake.
There are often two camps in the “lean world.” There are those who really believe that lean is about no technology. Others believe that you can’t be lean without eKanban and ERP integration.
IndustryWeek covered the topic in High-Tech’s Role in Lean. The article is a bit one-sided, as represented in this quote:
“Pure lean principles need to be looked at in tandem with industry-leading best practices in supply chain, such as intelligent inventory management, response management and demand management, in order to create the ideal lean plant,” Viswanathan and Littlefield conclude. “Also, the approach of avoiding software is no longer realistic in today’s environment due to the simple fact that there are too many constraints, which cannot be handled manually with ad hoc tools.”
The survey conducted is awfully biased as well. It self-defines those who have adopted lots of technology as “best-in-class.”
A Real Lean View on Technology
A true lean thinking organization starts with the problem or the barrier. What problem am I trying to solve? Instead of evaluating the technology to see if it “looks good” it was start with the problem. If technology is the best, most reliable, and simplest way to overcome the problem, then a lean thinker would gladly adopt it. As long as it doesn’t prevent future improvements.
Here are some questions you should be asking yourself before adopting technology:
- What problem are we trying to solve? What barrier are we trying to overcome?
- Does this solution get us closer to our ideal state?
- Does this solution limit are flexibility? Are future improvements more difficult?
- Does this solution limit our visibility? Will we know if and why we have problems?
A lean-thinking organization doesn’t adopt technology. It solves problems. And it uses technology as solutions.