Lean manufacturing: the buyer’s responsibility

In today’s world many of the brand owners does not do manufacturing them selves. They serve their retails markets and they let third parties to do the manufacturing for them. Large organizations have very organized ways of getting this done. They have manufacturers producing for them all over the world. Products are consolidated at central locations and distributed to the relevant countries and destinations.

This is one of the ways they keep their costs down and keep to their core competencies. But as a manufacturer for these large organizations, they have few problems to face, especially if they are looking to apply lean manufacturing. Lean manufacturing is very much dependent on the response of the buyer or the customer to manufacture. The pull manufacturing strategy is completely dependent on this response. So to manufacturer to be lean, they have to get good support from their buyers. But there is a problem.

End customers are too far away in the supply chain. So it will take fair amount of time to get the real end customer feedback in the process of manufacturing. So the manufacturer will have to work on predictions to fulfill the requirements. This means that they can not be truly become lean.

So what is the solution for this problem? Answer is simple. It is to get read of all the intermediates from the information flow. Is it possible? Yes this is possible. In fact many large organizations are doing this. Simply they allow their manufacturers to see their sales statistics and manufacturers are empowered to manufacture according to the requirements generated by sales. This is the information age without any doubt. It will take only few seconds to transmit this information form the retail shop to the manufacturer. So any manufacturing system can become a lean manufacturing system.

Any brand owner will love just to sit back and think how to improve their sales without thinking about manufacturing process.

Interesting lean manufacturing technique: Ask Why 5 times

I found an interesting tool used by Toyota in its efforts of making the waste free manufacturing facility. Lean manufacturers always believe problems are the sources for improvement. Therefore every problem is an opportunity for improvement. So how lean manufacturing use problems to their advantage. Toyota’s website gives us a simple tool to use.

According to Toyota’s Taiichi Ohno, when you have a problem you should look at the problem and ask the question why five times. For an example lets say you have number of quality defects in transportation. So you attend the problem by asking why you get quality defects while you transport. When you get the answer to that question, most probably that answer itself will reveal a problem in the system. Do this over and over again until you get to the root cause of the problem. Then get read of this cause. Your problem will be solved automatically.

What is the important concept behind this? That is finding the root cause and treating it. Important message is not to treat symptoms, but to treat causes of the problems. This is the lean way of thinking.

Lean concepts in communication 2 – Waiting

Lean manufacturing has its strength in its concepts. As I have been talking throughout my blog lean concepts can be applied to communication. So we will look at the second waste that can occur in the process of communication. This is waiting for information

In manufacturing context waiting refers to the idle workplaces which are waiting to do their jobs. But in the context of communication this is not just wasting of time and resources of one process. Waiting for information can cause chain effect in the process and can stop your full process. Every small bit of information is very important to the process. It is not enough to be 90%. You should have correct and complete information to carryout your work.

Every piece information must be there to be processed when they are required. Having them in very early stage will mean only little since they are not being processed. This can cause problems since this piece of data might not be up to date. On the other hand waiting for information can virtually stop the functionality of the organization. So Just In Time is very important here. Lean manufacturing concepts should be applied organization wide in order to create the perfect lean organization.

Lean manufacturing concepts in day to day life – 2.2K Vs 2K2

One of the main principles of lean manufacturing is mistake proofing. The system is designed in a way that mistakes will be avoided by the system. This is commonly known as Poka Yoke in lean manufacturing.

I found one interesting application of this concept in an electronic publication. Resistance is normally measured in Ohms or in kilo Ohms. It is mentioned as 2.2k normally. But this leads to many problems because when it comes to printing there is a probability of not printing the decimal point properly. Then this will be interpreted as 22k instead of 2.2k. Needless to say the problem this can create.

But if it is mentioned as 2k2 nobody will get confused and it is not difficult to understand. This is a very simple technique used to achieve excellent results. This is exactly the concept of Pokayoke. Lean thinking is based on simple changes to achieve the objectives of lean.

Lean concepts in communication 1 – Overloading of information

In a previous post I talked about using lean manufacturing concepts in communication and information handling. Today we will look at the lean concept of over production in the context of communication.

The term overproduction can be defined as the overloading of information in the context of information. Unnecessary information when they are not required creates overloading of information. Unnecessary information creates confusion. This is one of the main courses to problems in processes.

Only the required information must come into the system when they are required. This information should be well formatted so that it will be easy to capture and analyze. Every information processing point must be well defined so that everyone in the communication process will know exactly what information to collect and what to give out. No information should be passed to the next process until that process requires it. Also it is very important to give them the required information in a standard format so that they will be able to use it easily.

Lean communication is a very essential aspect of any lean manufacturing organization.

Is Your CC list long – you are not a lean manufacturer

Emails and other forms of e communication is widely used allover the world. I am sure you do use emails everyday. I found an interesting fact sometime back when I studied few suppliers for an organization. Some emails contained many, many addresses in the CC list of the email. Then I found out these organizations are not performing well and associated with many problems like delays and quality problems.

Lean manufacturing depends on perfection. Every activity is well defined. Not only the work, but the way it has to be carried out is defined. Every responsibility is well identified. Therefore if you are a lean manufacturer you will ideally see only one address in your email under TO field and none in the CC list. Reason is you will be doing something well defined and you have the full responsibility of that activity. There is no need you to tell someone else what you are doing, when he is not directly involved in your activity. Long CC lists creates confusion. Responsibility is not focused and it is scattered. This will create a process where everyone is overloaded with information yet no one is actually responsible for the actions they take. Obviously this can not be a lean manufacturing system.