This story first appeared in the May print issue of IMPO. For the full story, including a sidebar on taking Lean to the cloud, click here. 
Lean manufacturing is nothing new, yet the tools available to help support this critical foundation to continuous improvement are ever-changing. IMPO sat down with two Lean experts to discuss some of the latest tips and trends required for your Lean initiative.
IMPO: Once they’ve moved past the low-hanging fruit, how can manufacturers really dig deep into Lean in order to yield better results?
Ranga Bodla: Digging deep into Lean requires process changes, organizational changes, and oftentimes system changes. For example, CMP Corporation – the world’s largest manufacturer of aftermarket compressor parts – recognized that in order to achieve a Lean transformation, they needed to reduce their customer turnaround time (TAT). They reorganized their teams into individual “cells”, which resulted in a number of improvements but most importantly stock outs and reduction in turnaround time.
Rhonda Kovera: 5S and workplace organization can quickly clear a path to easily identify waste and opportunities for improvement. However, once you have begun to organize your workplace, it is imperative that you present your team with the principles of Visual Management. Visual Management applications should be applied systematically to the following categories: safety, leadership, work territories, work instructions, inventory, process control, and scoreboards. Start by creating a road map of questions for each category. The basis for the questions should focus on your goals and an agreement for the way we want to work. This road map will reveal waste and can become a guide for your Gemba walks.
IMPO: Explain visual management, and how it can play a key role in a plant’s Lean efforts.
RK: Visual Management methods create a workplace that speaks for itself. It is a workplace that reduces injury, identifies and eliminates missing information, and directs behavior. In addition, missing information is eliminated and scorecards are used to reveal opportunities for improvement. If you apply this definition to your workplace, your team will begin to see waste and become inspired to eliminate it. Visual Management is the tool that is essential to continuous improvement and creating a culture of problem solvers.
IMPO: How would you help manufacturers better understand how they can combine old concepts like Lean with new technologies like software solutions? What are the optimal results?
RB: Going Lean is not just about improving physical movements around bins of raw materials. It means streamlining processes that extend beyond the four walls of your business. Cloud solutions give manufacturers the comprehensive, integrated real-time views they need to make informed decisions, and the predictable, professional service that is vital to global success.
IMPO: When it comes to Lean, what are some of the latest tools businesses should be on the lookout for?
RK: Companies that are having success with Lean manufacturing have integrated Visual Management from the beginning of their journey. The goal of Lean is to expose waste and eliminate it. Visual Management is critical to engaging employees in the problem solving process required to accomplish this goal.
RB: Cloud ERP and mobile are two tools that businesses should be considering when it comes to Lean manufacturing. However, just adopting these tools doesn’t necessarily equal Lean. Traditional on-premise ERP systems often lack the flexibility to adapt to process changes. The right cloud systems are often inherently flexible, allowing organizations to implement best practice processes and then adapt their systems to best fit with these process changes. For example, CMP Corporation has adapted their cloud-based system, NetSuite, which is completely cloud-based and also mobile enabled, to take advantage of team and process changes that were implemented as part of their Lean transformation.  
IMPO: Once they’ve moved past the low-hanging fruit, how can manufacturers really dig deep into Lean in order to yield better results?
Meet the Experts:
Ranga Bodla, senior director of industry marketing at NetSuite. NetSuite is a leading integrated cloud business software suite, including business accounting, ERP, CRM and e-commerce software.
Rhonda Kovera, CEO, Visual Workplace, Inc. Visual Workplace, Inc. specializes in high-quality products needed to help users implement and sustain a Lean work environment. Visual Workplace products and training resources provide users the tools they need to foster visual management processes in their facility.