Support from Human Resources is Critical in Lean: A Russian Case Study (English)

Tweet about this on Twitter4Share on Facebook1Share on LinkedIn2Share on Google+2Email this to someone

Today we feature a lean practitioner – Mikhail Kalinin. He resides in Russia and he helps organizations in Russia implement Lean. In today’s article, Mikhail shares a case study where he and his team implemented lean in a Russian factory and he shares with us the lessons-learned. Go here to read the Russian Version.

In this article, I describe my experience in implementing an approach “Lean Thinking”, or as it is more commonly known in Russia, “Lean production”, in one of the local food industry company in which I was fortunate to work as the Plant director.

At one meeting, HR Director gave me a book by Jeffrey Liker “Dao Toyota” in which the author talks about the history of formation and development of the Toyota production system, the origin of unique culture of production – “Lean Production”, which has proven its advantage over such production culture as “Mass production.”

After reading this book, I wanted to implement this approach in a factory. To do this, I needed to get the approval of company’s CEO.
We agreed with HR Director that she would introduce “Lean Production” to CEO before I turn to him for approval of my desire. Imagine my surprise when at the beginning of one of the next meetings of directors, CEO said that he decided to adopt the approach “Lean production” throughout the company.

We purchased all books about lean manufacturing that were available on the Russian market and CEO asked department’s directors to read them and then teach their direct reports.

CEO decided to start implementing Lean manufacturing approach in the factory first, so the main amount of books was purchased and distributed in the factory. I asked my colleagues including shift supervisors to read the books. And we started to discuss material on a weekly basis. Week by week we were getting more understanding of the approach and how to apply it in our circumstances. In addition to books, I also studied everything related to this subject on the Internet.

By this time, I managed to get first supporters of Lean approach at the factory. We were working without consultants on our lean approach implementation and very quickly, it became obvious that we must create a unit that would undertake more work on the organization of the implementation of lean manufacturing. It was decided that we‘d find necessary people within our organization. And we managed to do it. One of the former shift supervisors headed this department. The department includes three more people: two – from HR department and one from IT department. We named this department “Lean Implementation department”. With the support and assistance of HR Director, we have managed to create a preliminary plan for the implementation of lean manufacturing in our factory. A key element of the plan was that all factory managers and specialists should take part in the preparation of the trainings and promote lean approach in the factory.

Lean Implementation Department staff with Production Manager and me participated in seminars, trainings and conferences on lean manufacturing, visited several companies that were implementing lean manufacturing. Head of Lean Implementation Department together with HR Department organized two visits of our managers and specialists to one of the enterprises.

The main result of these visits was that the number of lean approach supporters doubled. “Doubters” were able to see by themselves that this approach works, they were able to communicate directly and to ask questions people who were already implementing lean, and, what is more important, get answers.

Thus, by studying literature, attending seminars and conferences and, mainly, due to the visits of the enterprises which were already implementing lean manufacturing, the number of supporters among the middle and junior managers (shift supervisors, foremen), reached the number required for starting the deployment of lean manufacturing throughout the factory.

We started with teaching the basic principles and lean tools our middle managers (shift supervisors, chief engineer department staff). The main part of lean implementation culture was that we asked all managers to prepare and conduct training courses to their subordinates. We agreed, who will be responsible for training and implementation of a particular lean methodology or tool. Finally, almost all managers and factory specialists were involved in this process. We conducted only one external training. “Center Prioritet” experts conducted TPM training. It was very important that all works during the training was with the participation of the CEO. It proved to everyone that CEO is taking lean implementation at the factory very seriously.

After half a year, HR department and we have developed two main training programs: “School of world-class masters” for foremen and a similar program for operators. These programs have been designed to 9 and 12 months, respectively. During the training program, participants not only gain knowledge about lean manufacturing philosophy, concepts and tools, but also participated in team building trainings, project management, etc. Participants of the training program also had to develop and implement a project aimed on improving one of the processes using the knowledge gained during the program.

Participation in the program was not mandatory, but it was openly and clearly stated that successful fulfillment of the program will help to improve position at the factory or/and obtain an increase in wages.

Commission headed by Plant manager and HR director assessed the results of the education program. For two years of Lean production implementation, we achieved the following results:

  • The number of product changeovers during a month of production has quadrupled.
  • Changeover time has been reduced three times.
  • Employees made about 80 suggestions for improving work and work places a year with savings more than 70 000 dollars.
  • The availability of the equipment has reached 85%.
  • Level of quality products without rework reached 99.87%.

For the company as a whole, this work has yielded the following results:

  • Reduced cost of finished products inventory.
  • Cost savings for the diversion of working capital in inventories.
  • Reduce the backlog of customer orders from three to four times.
  • Reduction of production costs.

One of the most important results was increased employees’ work satisfaction (from the polls), which has affected in reduced staff turnover.
Importantly, we found that Lean manufacturing approach really works for Russian enterprises and provide real and tangible results.

Important role in the success of lean approach implementation played compliance to the following principles:

  • Leadership – persistence, perseverance and unity of word and deed.
  • Respect for employees – creating a safe, comfortable working conditions, recognition and promotion of the achieved result.


  1. Implementation of “Lean Production” approach gives significant positive results in the work of the enterprise.
  2. Approach requires introduction and performing of at least seven conditions. (Pic. 1).
  3. Implementation requires a systematic approach, the development of implementation methodology, training, motivation systems.
  4. It is necessary to interact, primarily with HR Department. It is better if the lead of implementation will take HR Department.
  5. Significant results in improving of operation is possible to receive immediately after the start of implementation, cost savings can be partially used to finance the deployment of the program implementation.
  6. If it is not possible to establish a structure within the organization to help in lean production implementation, I recommend using consultants with clear requirements for the results of their work.

human resources, lean support

mikhail, lean consultantAbout Mikhail Kalinin

Mikhail has more than 20 years’ experience in manufacturing and supply chain operations. He has worked with multinational companies such as Colgate-Palmolive, Benckiser, Frito Lay, 3M and with Russian companies. He managed to build and run four plants from zero level, develop teams, which delivered expected results. During his work, he managed to learn and implement KPI’s systems, 6 Sigma, Lean Production approaches which helped to significantly increase productivity, quality and reduce costs. He believes that Lean thinking should change Russian companies from poor productivity to world class performance. From 2010, he works as a consultant, helping companies to increase productivity, improve quality and reduce costs and production time. And we are succeeding in our way to continuous improvement.

You can contact Mikhail here:

Lean Union
+7 916 6824127
Mikhail Kalinin

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *