Lean manufacturing is a method of improvement used in several manufacturing facilities in today’s age. It improves production processes in order to eliminate waste and increase the efficiency and productivity of the company. Waste comes in all kinds of forms – it is an activity that consumes time, resources, or space while not really adding any value to the product or service of the company. Lean manufacturing focuses on finding and improving better use of time, flow, and prevent overproduction, over processing and defects. This helps to improve the quality of a product which will meet or go above the customer’s expectations and requirements.
In order to be a lean manufacturer, you must first understand that change needs to take place. Without change, you cannot hope to improve upon anything, but before you start changing things, you must first create the plan.
Lean manufacturing should be considered in all aspects of the company, from production to facility management, to the front end. With lean manufacturing, you are asking your company to change the way the company and everyone in how they think, act and react to the way they work every day in every situation. In each aspect of the company, you must ask the questions: What should we change? And to what should we change it to?
The people that initiate these changes are going to need to be carefully chosen to implement and maintain or reinforce the changes made. This responsibility should always be given to management. Management’s duty will be to reinforce the changes to cause the desired affects to promote a lean working environment and processes. It will also be managements duty to observe, collect data and share ideas to use for continually improving the company. Continual improvement should be an everyday goal for the management team to focus on, rather than adding it on to their day to day work load.
Continuous improvement should be looked at in steps, and each step should be broken down into smaller steps. The more broken down your steps are, the more you will be able to look more deeply into each process and learn more ways to make to make adjustments, thus leading you to where you want to be.
1. Create your long-term goals: Have a vision. Keep it broad. Make it just out of reach. Remember, you want to keep moving forward. What is something that you will only just ever see on the horizon but never reach? Continual improvement to lean manufacturing is in the journey, not the destination.
2. Examination: Make your observations of your current processes. You don’t want to start from the beginning, you want to begin with what you already have and begin to build and improve on that. Then continue to build upon this. This promotes efficiency in your process to attain efficiency in the process.
3. Come up with ideas: Ask the right questions, not what can we do, but what do we need to do?
4. Come up with an improvement plan: Never start implementing something unless you know it is going to help promote efficiency. Do not implement old processes that did not work before. The idea is to keep moving forward. To do so, you must keep a standard form to keep the process running smoothly.
a. Plan: make it clear what you expect to do and to happen.
b. Test: Analyze the data
c. Check: Compare the actual outcome with the expected outcome
d. Act: Standardize and stabilize what works or start over again.
5. Implement improvement plan: Create an action item list and tackle each item one at a time after prioritizing them. Keep track of who is doing what by when and then meet to discuss.
6. Repeat steps 2-5 to continually improve!
Lean Manufacturing is a method that needs dedication, adaptability and the willingness to try new things to change the company for the better. Your vision will be the most important step of all, and may even change over time as you change and learn more about your company through this process, but you always want to keep your company’s philosophy and direction in mind at all times so that you do not get distracted along the way and lose your efficiency because of it.
Rother, Mike. Toyota Kata: Managing People for Improvement, Adaptiveness, and Superior Results. New York: McGraw Hill, 2010. Print.