South African business community is beginning to recognise the value that lean thinking can bring to organisations, says Professor Norman Faull, director of the Lean Institute Africa (Lia) at the Graduate School of Business (GSB).
The institute was launched in October last year. The revolutionary lean philosophy, which gives organisations a set of tools to reduce waste and cost without compromising quality, is now attracting significant interest across all sectors.
Faull says that its programmes had been well received, not only by the manufacturing sector - traditionally the domain of lean thinking - but by the services and administrative sectors as well. This is a trend he hopes to see develop in Durban and Port Elizabeth, the next two destinations for the programme this year.
"I am pleased that in South Africa we are getting this amount of interest from the services and administrative areas of business. It shows we are part of the emerging global trend to harness lean thinking for a diverse range of sectors."
He believes that there is a lot of potential in South Africa for the lean approach. He recently returned from the United Kingdom where he attended a course on the value that lean principles can bring to the health sector, and is now in negotiations to set up a pilot project at a hospital in Cape Town.
"Many South African organisations can benefit, but it does mean that a manager must recognise the value of enhanced processes and getting the basics right. If we look at Toyota for example, there is a reason why their profit per vehicle is ten times that of their competitors - it comes down to foresight and high degree of attention to process that these managers have taken," said Faull.
The lean approach is an integrated set of industrial principles and methods that grew out of a study of the Japanese automobile industry.
Faull has been at the forefront of bringing the lean approach to South Africa and for the past 15 years. He also runs a GSB production management study tour to Japan, which actually takes production managers and their key staff to experience and learn these practices first-hand.
"We want to create a growing community of people skilled in using these tools. In order to do this we have committed ourselves to helping companies to develop their staff over time."
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