Four Principles forwards lean management for AI manufacturing

28 August 2019 3 min. read

Middle East lean management proponents Four Principles have outlined how the Kaizen philosophy can be married to artificial intelligence in the manufacturing sector.

The rapid advance of artificial intelligence is set to impact just about every facet of human life – but most tellingly in terms of employment. While the world’s leading consultancies consistently maintain that the emerging technology will create new jobs in addition to erasing them, the figures are nonetheless stark. A previous McKinsey study suggested that as many as 800 million jobs could be displaced by AI and automation in a little over a decade.

Among the very most vulnerable sectors; manufacturing. Here, a recent report from Middle East Lean management consultancy Four Principles on AI adoption in the manufacturing sector has argued that it’s essential for stakeholders to incorporate Lean principles as they offset some of the traditional human roles while in the process of integration – comparing the Kaizen philosophy of continuous improvement to AI’s principal role as an agent of ongoing optimisation.

“Eliminating waste and improving efficiencies is as much a principle of AI as it is of Lean Management,” states Ernest Nedic, Director of Four Principles’ Kaizen Lab, which provides clients with a range of certified and customisable training courses and qualification programmes on Lean management. Nedic adds; “Companies that want to align teams with new AI modalities can leverage Lean principles as they take that next evolutionary step.”Four Principles - Industry 40According to the firm, the use of AI can reduce producers’ conversion costs by up to 20 percent, with up to 70 percent of that reduction coming as a result of higher workforce productivity. By combining AI with Lean, it contends, manufacturers will be able to create a new company culture, which will ensure not only better operations but a more adaptable workflow for employees as they cede certain responsibilities and transition into new ones.

Yet, a failure to involve staff in AI initiatives may undermine its potential benefits. Contemporary Lean management systems drive the front-line staff experience – converting deep organisational knowledge into practical behavior and business value. Here, Four Principles forwards that Lean management in AI could deliver innovation, as company leaders incorporate staff experience into the development of new roles and technology structures.

“A Lean approach to AI adoption harnesses the strengths of people themselves – leaders, data teams, and team members on the factory floor – delivering results in a faster and more consistent way. Companies that are leading their industry with AI are usually leveraging the technology to deliver business value while successfully transitioning employees away from redundant processes,” states Four Principles’ Principal Stefano Gaspari.

Rather than implementing it independently, using AI to augment human capabilities maximises the potential to create sustainable value, delivering a competitive advantage through elevated human intelligence. The first step however, says the firm, is to align expectations across all of the teams that will interact with new AI solutions, and from there, staff can use Lean processes to tackle the biggest risks associated with the technology, such as workforce disengagement.