Does Lean Implementation Reduce Manpower?

    Does Lean Implementation Reduces Manpower
    Does Lean Implementation Reduces Manpower

    Does lean implementation reduce manpower, is a common question about which people wonder most of the time. The answer to which they presume is affirmative. As a result, the employees are not so keen in lean implementation. Many a times people interpret LEAN as “Less Employees Are Needed”. While the fact is very different.

    So, Does Lean Implementation Reduce Manpower?

    Does Lean Implementation Reduce Manpower?
    Does Lean Implementation Reduce Manpower?

    Lean is one of the most popular methodologies globally as it does not require a very high level of statistical knowledge. An employee with basic knowledge, common sense, involvement and motivation can implement it.  The basic purpose of lean is to cut down on the extra fat the organization, primarily in terms of Non-Value Adding Activities (NVA). So, what we have to focus on is the reduction of the waste rather than the reduction of the manpower. I hope you have an understanding of the 8 wastes.

    Human resources are they key asset, few and precious

    It is not the problem of the employees that they are not able to add value, it is the systems that are set in the organization that does not allow employees to add value.

    An example of automotive industry

    Does Lean Implementation Reduce Manpower?
    Does Lean Implementation Reduce Manpower?

    Let’s take an example of an automotive company where there are a lot of manual processes involved for manufacturing a car component. In a real sense, the value is added only when work is being done on the component, but 80-90% of the time the component is lying idle. This is where the role of lean comes in. We need to see how we can work on the 8 wastes so that we create more value for better organizational profitability.

    During application of Lean, we understand and identify those areas that need to be improved upon so that the value can be increased.

    It is important to understand that the value of a process is defined not by the process owner, but the customer.

    Value is an activity for which the customer is paying. So, ideally, we should be doing only those activities that add value, but is it always possible in any organization? Well, the practical answer is no. As an organization, we are supposed to do lot many jobs for which the customer is not paying. But still these activities are very important for the business to run. These activities could be statutory in nature, or could be coming from the voice of business or from other sources.

    It is the responsibility of the employee to evaluate the NVA in the organization and to make the processes lean so that the losses can be reduced.

    What to do with the employees when the processes are simplified?

    You might be thinking, that when these processes are simplified, then what will happen to those people who were doing non-value adding work. Will the Human Resource department do the restructuring and get rid of these people? That’s the fear that the employees carry.

    Well, this is the place where the entire trick happens. If your organization is not matured (more particularly if lean is not taken in the right perspective) then you might end up in reducing the employees, which is against the basic principles of lean. In an organization that is implementing lean in a real spirit, they would prefer to move such people to those processes where they can add value. These people would be used so that lines are properly balanced. Even the employees are transferred to the marketing department so that they can bring more orders for the organization.

    This not only motivates the employees as they see that their activities are adding value to the organization, but also improves the bottom line. So, it’s a win-win situation both for the employees as well as the organization.

    The organizations, that take lean implementation as an opportunity for retrenchment, are cutting their own branches. It is extremely difficult to get good human resources that understand your organization and processes. So, in the short term you might show some quick dollars, but in the long term, you will not only lose the trust of the employees but also you would not have a capable team to deliver results when the business grows.

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    Nidhi Gupta
    An educationist by qualification, with over 17 years of experience in the field of teaching and operational excellence, she is the co-founder of the With an objective to bring in a cultural change in the society and to get more by doing less, she co-founded this blog - A conclave of operational excellence professionals, so that the learning of operational excellence professionals can reach to the masses.


    1. Great article Nidhi. Unfortunately there are all too many companies that say they are implementing Lean without really understanding what the 2 key parts are. This means that they focus wholly on Continuous Improvement at the cost of respect for people. This is the quick and dirty way of applying Lean. It is also the way which will inevitably lead to the failure of the system.
      Before beginning on a Lean journey an organisation MUST realise that it is not a journey of cost reduction (that is a result not a goal) but it is more a journey of expansion and growth. This is a much more positive sell to the workers and also guarantees positions once the NVA wastes have been removed. How many companies can expand and lose value adding workers at the same time?

    2. Thanks Troy for liking the post. World over, all the organizations that have taken lean in the true spirit have shown phenomenal results in terms of employee involvement, organizational development and loss reduction.
      So, its just a matter of right perspective.

    3. Nidhi, thank you so much for shedding light on this subject. Throughout my years in business I’ve continually heard this complaint of Lean implementation reducing the number of employees. And like Troy commented, I’ve witnessed companies chase the short-term profit. However, I’ve also experienced the powerful upside of when Lean is implemented correctly. When done correctly it is truly a win-win as you describe. Of course, the “trick” is getting companies to understand how much better and healthier it is overall to pursue long-term goals. One of the very reasons we began workRethink.
      Thank you again, and please keep up the great work!