Lean Manufacturing

Every industry that we come across contains or produces some or the other kind of waste. The process of lean manufacturing is implemented to minimize or eliminate this wastage while helping in maximizing productivity. In other words, lean manufacturing is a set of practices which aim at knocking out all of those activities which do not add value to your business/industry. What qualifies as waste? It can be anything that cannot be repurposed and what the customers are not willing to pay for. Lean consultants help businesses streamline the existing process by reducing the wasted money and time. The idea of lean manufacturing, or lean production, helps you take full advantage of all your resources to improve product quality and can be implemented by any industry. So how do we implement lean manufacturing to improve the effectiveness and profitability of operations? Let’s have a look at the five best practices:

1) The most fundamental practice of implementing lean manufacturing is to review all the areas and identify the waste being generated by the business. This helps to then minimize, or completely eliminate it. For this, we need to target the following types of waste:

  •  Defects – This can be caused due to low quality of materials, substandard equipment or poor performance by the workers and leads to rework and replacement. It can be extremely damaging to the brand image if a customer is delivered a defective piece.
  •  Overproduction – This waste is caused by making more products than required in hopes of more order being generated in the near future. This also leads to wastage of important labor hours that could be utilized for other work.
  •  Waiting – This includes increase in worker wait time due to machine break down or repair, or waiting for a process to finish so as to progress ahead to the next step.
  • Non utilized talent – Not utilizing a worker’s full potential leads to wastage of their abilities.
  • Transportation – To reduce waste during transportation happening throughout the manufacturing process, the distance to and fro should be minimized.
  • Inventory – Excess inventory must be reduced at every possible stage as it takes up space, can get damaged over time and also affects your cash flow.
  • Motion – This includes production items to be as accessible as possible to the worker to avoid unnecessary bending, reaching, lifting and walking.
  • Extra processing – This occurs when undue time is wasted on features that may not be necessary. For example, making a part look good that may never be seen by the customer, especially when it doesn’t affect the productivity of that particular part is a total waste.

2) Continuous Improvement, although seems easy to achieve, must be given high priority when implementing lean manufacturing. Basically, it’s promoting a vision of doing every task better in order to achieve perfection and to remove as many non-value adding activities as possible. Continuous improvement requires a high understanding of the principles that need to be followed for achieving superior product quality that your customer would value. It can also be achieved through “kaizen” which is a Japanese word that means “change for the better.” Kaizen, in lean manufacturing, means brainstorming ideas involving all employees and re-modeling the existing practices for better flow. You can also hire a lean consultant to help them understand the process better.

3) The 5S, a set of Japanese words, is a methodology that helps in workplace organization which makes it easier for people to do their jobs more efficiently. It basically focuses on putting everything where it belongs to make work more effective and safe. The 5S stand for the following:

  •  Seiri (meaning – Sort)
  •  Seiton (meaning – Set in order)
  •  Seiso (meaning – Shine)
  •  Seiketsu (meaning – Standardize)
  •  Shitsuke (meaning – Sustain)

4) The 5S leads to a more organized workplace that helps cultivate a safer work culture. This leads us to 6S or 5S+S (adding Safety/Security) to the original 5S practices of lean manufacturing. Safety must be given high priority to prevent loss of time that could occur due to any unfortunate event. The occurrence of workplace accidents and illnesses must be prevented so that the employee safety is guaranteed. It has been proven over time that lean manufacturing concepts can offer a safer work environment. 

5) Tracking processes for identifying the inefficient ones is highly important as it helps prevent any future losses or damages. This means reviewing processes and implementing practices that help in increasing the quality and reduces the amount of wastage. For this key performance indicators (KPI) must be tracked in order to set goals and achieve good operational results. A lean consultant helps you in identifying KPIs which lead to improved productivity and efficiency as well as better customer response.

The advantages of adapting the lean manufacturing methodology include better production, efficient work practices leading to cost saving. In fact it saves energy and resource costs too. Apart from this it helps you achieve customer satisfaction and a better brand image. Bringing a lean consultant onboard can turn out to be a highly valuable decision for your business. Make sure to discuss it with your employees so that they are on the same page about how it will benefit the entire organization by creating more value for customers. It would be a total waste if they are not onboard and don’t understand that this methodology actually has multiple benefits. The customer benefits from it, your employees benefit from it and eventually, your business benefits from it. A complete win-win for everyone involved.

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