How do you switch to lean manufacturing?

11th April 2018
Posted By : Anna Flockett
How do you switch to lean manufacturing?

In this new era of production techniques and technologies, new buzzwords are being circulated throughout the internet. ‘Lean’ is a relatively new model for managing businesses, especially in fields like manufacturing, software development and construction. Basically, anywhere where massive workloads are involved and effective distribution of them is necessary within a tight accommodation of budget and resources.

A lean model is a pretty easy concept to understand, but implementation can get complicated. However, the impact and outcome of a properly initiated lean model is good, and worth the time and effort spent in the end. 

What is lean manufacturing?
Lean manufacturing is a business model that reduces waste in manufacturing environments. The term ‘waste’ does not mean what we typically understand by waste, rather it is the unused or leftover materials in a production factory that does not add any value to the customer’s end. In any manufacturing industry, the amount of waste is actually pretty higher than the final production output itself. Depending on industries, the amount of ‘non-value adding’ waste can reach 60% of the entire production volume, as researched and stated by the Lean Enterprise Research Centre (LERC).

However, using a lean manufacturing model now, companies can significantly improve their production process and save on associated costs. Maintaining quality at a reduced cost is a difficult challenge to overcome, and that is where many companies fail while trying to implement the lean model. Therefore, every company planning to incorporate lean model must do a proper assessment of every possible process where a failure may occur.

The five principles of lean manufacturing management
The lean manufacturing model is based on five simple and easy to apprehend principles. Implementing these principles on a smaller scale to begin with is suggested since the test run will reflect the potential benefits and outcomes without a high risk of loss or failure. With that in mind, it is best for larger facilities to implement lean models in stages, this is not an all or nothing situation.

The five principles of lean manufacturing are –

  • Find out the values involved

Every manufacturing company must have a value that they serve to their customers in the form of products and/or services. Every manufacturing and marketing factor is actually determined by the company values, these values are the core aspect that drives pretty much every ongoing process in the company. Values are connected to the consumer image of the company as well. For example, out of all the available automobile brands in the USA, people still buy Toyota because of its longevity and proven track record of reliability. This ‘reliable’ image is the value that customers pay for and to implement lean manufacturing identification of the value is important.

  • Value stream mapping

Finding the value stream is directly involved in the final product’s life cycle, starting from scratch till its end at the hands of the customer. To derive an effective value mapping stream, studying and realising product value and its actual thorough life cycle is very important. Since the lean model works on the elimination of waste, a company must know the waste-causing factors in the first place.

  • Ongoing and efficient manufacturing flow

Waste occurs in a manufacturing factory because the workflow and production flow might not be appropriate. Creating a flow of work that addresses the issue and resolves the generation of waste throughout the different phases of a product e.g. its raw materials, factory tools and machines, operators, and other assemblies etc. Flow is designed in parallel with the company’s beliefs. Work has to be a smoother experience for everyone and everything involved to have a perfect flow.

  • Pull, instead of push

In a pull approach, a factory only makes the products upon receiving customer orders. Typical manufacturing factories follow the push approach where everything is produced way before the customer actually intends to buy it, this is done to ensure that there is always a significant amount of the product’s supply across the market. In a pull approach, the time window between every step, like acquiring raw materials, R&D, actual production, and shipping, does reduce waste, but most of the time, at the expense of time. However, by reducing the time window between each step, or eliminating or combining steps can make the pull method way more efficient as you strive to reduce the time lost, and that is where lean manufacturing comes into play.

  • Perfection and sustaining

Ultimately, the goal for adopting lean manufacturing would be obtaining near perfect numbers on a production data sheet. A lean manufacturing manager is responsible for finding out the most feasible business aspects where initiating a model would lead to the best impact, and to infinitely sustain the company’s values and goals through efficient output.

Lean manufacturing benefits
Among many, some proven benefits of lean manufacturing models are –

  • The ability to serve the customer exactly the way they want and when they want it.
  • Added value to the company’s production and marketing belief, making money in the process.
  • The practice of innovation across different functional parts of the company.
  • Rapid response to any crucial situation where meeting demand in a very tight deadline is necessary.

Wrap up
There is no better business model than lean manufacturing model that actually works in this 21st century. Implementation of lean manufacturing might become an issue if the employees and workers in the manufacturing teams don’t understand the requirements and procedures or are reluctant to do so. Patience is definitely important when adopting and training the staff to go lean, but the results are well worth it.

Piece written by Greg Conrad, a writer for Ax Control.

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