A lean manufacturing success story

The industry week reported another lean manufacturing success story few days back. In the Hussmann manufactures facility they have applied lean technique of Kanban to reduce their inventory by $300,000 and to save the floor space by 20%. They have also had major improvements in work stoppage due to non availability of stock. They have improved from one to five stoppages per week to none per year in this aspect.

Lean manufacturing and the importance of responsibility

Lean manufacturing is a team effort. Everyone must contribute for the success of a lean manufacturing system. Managers, factory floor workers and even the suppliers and customers must play their parts to get the benefits of a lean system. What is the role of trust in lean manufacturing environment?

In a lean environment it is very important to be responsible for what you do, as an individual and as a team. Finally as the organization of cause. In an environment where trust plays a major role you should be responsible for every activity you do. For an example if you perform a certain function in manufacturing, you must make sure you have done the job correct. Your colleague is fully dependent on you to perform his job. So you must make sure you pass only good quality parts from your workstation to your colleague, who is your immediate customer.

This culture will make sure the seamless integration between teams. Every team will trust their immediate supplier. Ultimately in the bigger picture, you will become a responsible supplier for your customers. Isn’t this great? Becoming a trusted supplier for your customers? Isn’t it one of your dreams?

How lean manufacturing reduce the throughput time of your production facility

I discussed similar topics with you in my previous posts. But I thought I should put in a graphical format so that you will be able to understand the effect lean manufacturing makes on your throughput time.

If you practice batch processing with a batch of 10 in each point, the figure below shows how long it will take a finished product to come out from manufacturing facility. If there are three processes, and if we assume each process will take 1 minute to process one part, this process will take 30 minutes to get the first finished part out from your system.

But if we process these part by part, it will take only 3 minutes to get the finished product out. So you will save 27 minutes in throughput time in this case. Isn’t it amazing? This is why lean manufacturing doesn’t like batch processing. Lean manufacturer’s works on just in time processing

Simple lean manufacturing concept – Visual Controls to unhide the waste

One of the most important concepts of lean manufacturing is using of visual controls to identify the waste and eliminate it. Visual factory concept is based on this. How to use visual controls effectively in your manufacturing facility, or even in your service facility?

Visual controls can be used to unhide wastes in your manufacturing facility. For an example if you remove the intermediate storages in your manufacturing facility like temporary bins, you will find out the amount of working progress in your facility just by looking at the assembly line. This will also unhide the bottlenecks in the operation. So by simply observing the factory floor, you will be able to identify the problems and where those problems are.

If you face a machine breakdown, simply press a button or turn on a bulb to indicate you have a problem in your machine. Everyone will then know that there is a problem. Relevant parties can attend the problem and rectify it. At any given time any manager can simply observe his manufacturing facility and get an idea about the number of machine breakdowns at that moment. This information is very helpful in identifying, ranking and finding the root causes of these problems.

Charts and other forms of visual indicators can be used to compare the performances to the targets. So everyone will know actually what they have to do and where they stand.

Visual tools are very simple to use. You can use this to great effect if you know how to use it effectively.

Lean and change

It is the change, the only unchanging thing in this world. It is true in any context. This is especially true for the manufacturing context as well. Lean manufacturing relies on positive continuous changes to improve the effectiveness of work continuously.

Any lean manufacturer would love to have a team who will enjoy the change and will take it as a part of their lives. This kind of work environment makes it easy to make creative decisions and implement them. Workers also will contribute to changes and improvements of the workplace. It is true lean and changes have a closer link. But what is the meaning of change in a lean environment.

Changes should be well planned and thought of before even thinking of implementing. Every pluses and minuses must be analyzed. Changes in lean environment are not an exception. Unplanned, random changes will do harm than good to your organization.

Especially the goals and strategies must be set for the organization. Any change must focus in achieving the long term objectives of the organization. Goals and strategies should not change all the time. This will make your organization to loose focus. It doesn’t matter how fast you are moving as far as you do not have a target, it is as good as not moving. So first have a firm conceptual foundation to your organization. Then think about doing changes if necessary to achieve these goals and objectives. If your boss says “ change is the only constant thing in this world. So I would like to see you adapting to the situation”, I believe you should ask your boss what is the base for this change.