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The Birth of a Dynamic Duo

By Graphic Products Editorial Staff

Maybe you've heard, maybe you haven't. Buzzworthy terms like “Agile” and “Scrum” have entered the manufacturing industry with staying power. Agile—a progressive form of project management uses Scrum framework to produce complex development in very quick and short cycles to eliminate inefficiencies. Agile management originated in software development, catching the attention of forward-thinkers in manufacturing. The radical process has revolutionized the way work was done thanks to its efficient speed. Manufacturing companies continue to adopt Lean techniques—yet the meeting of kindred spirits, Agile and Lean could create the ultimate duo for a manufacturing discipline for the future.

5 Indicators that Agile and Lean are dynamically linked:

1. Values from the same stock

Lean and Agile share a similar set of values and expectations. Like Lean, Agile thrives by using limited resources to create efficiencies. The goal of Lean Manufacturing is to create a stream of processes with no detours or wasted space and energy. Processes are only created when needed, adding to the flow of the stream, ensuring that the shortest lead time, highest quality and lowest cost is in place. Agile will continuously crank out the most efficient pieces for the overall picture that Lean is set out to design.

2. No additives and naturally responsive

Lean and Agile are responsive to change.  Think of NBA basketball. If coaches started game nights with a specific map, holding each player accountable to the required movements to win, it would be a slow nightmare to watch. What if LeBron miscommunicates with his body position? Who would step in to lead points if Durant falls injured?  Non-responsive tactics wouldn’t allow the team to adjust their behavior on the fly. While in play, requirements change, demands increase, and resources shift; just like manufacturing. It is critical to be responsive and focused on people around you rather than the scoreboard. Agile teams self-organize and are cross functional; they are culturally encouraged to take immediate action based on changing internal or external factors.

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Agile and Lean

3. The Zen of waste elimination

A Lean Manufacturing principle that transformed the car manufacturing industry was the Toyota Production System in Japan. A goal was to eliminate anything that was not necessary in the manufacturing process; addressing it as waste. Agile on its own, implements a technique called retrospective, which removes inefficiencies during development processes. During retrospective, teams meet after each short development to discuss what went well and what didn’t, just like like timeouts in the NBA. These interval meetings create small improvements in bite-sized chunks that can be handed off for implementation while the team moves quickly onto the next task. Everyone is on the same page and roadblocks are removed. Lean’s goal of eliminating inefficiencies is perfectly matched with Agile's active meeting style.

4. Common sense connects two styles

In the traditional sense, Lean Manufacturing simplifies and standardizes everything so that knowledge of the entire process is not necessary for production line workers. Agile advocates the conflicting view that knowledge is power. Take pit stops for instance during car races. A strategy is in place, but evolves based on the knowledge the pit crew creates and shares during the changing environment. Each crew member has a specific role to complete in seconds, similar to an assembly line. The team responds and adjusts to what is working and what isn’t for each stop. They planned to change the tires, but there isn’t time on this stop to do it because of the location of their pit against competition. They can stretch it to the next pit stop when their biggest competition has to take five seconds longer to refuel. The crew makes changes based on current knowledge. Instead of setting up a system of processes that need to be reversed engineered every few years to see if it’s still efficient, Agile continuously is improving or adjusting the process and delivering before moving on. Brain storming and collaboration after each step to ensure the next task is the most efficient means for overall flow of Lean manufacturing.

5. Using visual language

Agile and Lean speak the same language. The mantra "You won't get Lean—or Agile—until you get visual" is a common theme. There's good reason for that.

Visual factory is an operational philosophy based on workers quickly absorbing information so they can make the best decisions. It means organizing work in ways that is easily understood. Signs and charts are displayed in a manner to improve safety and efficiency. Agile performs at its peak when best practices and methods are visually communicated through the entire process—just the same as Lean. The best part is that if your manufacturing team truly is Agile, then your visual language will always be compliant, and appropriate for each situation.

To speak the visual language of Agile and Lean, rely on resources like DuraLabel printers and labelers to provide high-quality workplace labeling and signage. Helpful guides and tools are at your fingertips to help you create a workplace that is visually compliant, safe, and efficient. Call one of our knowledgeable support specialists today for assistance on improving safety in your workplace.