The success of a business highly depends on the minimization of waste and the maximization of value. Lean manufacturing is a production method which improves processes by achieving both of these within a manufacturing environment.
It has several great benefits, including reduced costs, reduced downtime, increased on time deliveries, improved quality of products, increased innovation, and optimized processes. A business which doesn’t optimize its resources, be it equipment or employee skills, will be inefficient, and this leads to reduced productivity.
Lean production promotes industry competitiveness and was introduced by Toyota in 1930, who built the operating model popularly known as “The Toyota Way.” Many big name manufacturers have followed suit and implemented a lean manufacturing system of their own.
Best Practices in Lean Manufacturing
Eliminating business waste
Manufacturers can reduce or even eliminate business waste by adhering to lean management practices.
Several of these waste types are listed below, with the acronym of ‘DOWNTIME’:
- Defective products should never reach the end customer and should ideally be processed as scrap or rework
- Overproduction often leads to a waste of man hours which could be gainfully employed elsewhere to increase ROI. It could also lead to inventory shortage and the risk of obsolete inventory if a regular client decides against purchasing additional products.
- Waiting for a business machine to process or a piece of equipment to be repaired can ultimately cause the entire production line to shut down.
- Non utilized talent is a waste of the superior skills of employees and human assets within the business, and it can hamper creativity and innovation which is imperative to the success of the company.
- Transportation excess can occur through the manufacturing process, from the supply chain to the delivery of materials.
- Inventory excess can occur in the form of overlooked or obsolete inventory, within five areas, namely raw components, sub-assembly, finished goods, maintenance and office supplies, and repair and operations. Inventory excess can hamper your business cash flows.
- Motion excess refers to the waste of valuable business time in small motions like walking, lifting, retrieving, and bending.
- Excess processing is spending time on a product’s features, which even if not worked on to this extent, would still not hamper its functionality. It refers to spending time on non-essential processes instead of gainfully employing valuable business time elsewhere.
Facilitating continuous business improvement
Promoting continuous improvements at the shop floor, no matter how big or small, is a great way to incorporate lean manufacturing within your business strategy. Slight changes in daily tasks can add up to big value in the long term.
Continuous improvement over the longer term is highly acclaimed through the Japanese concept of ‘kaizen’, which means a change for the better. It is focused on identifying problems with standardized processes and finding the appropriate solution to them quickly.
Implementing superior organization via the 5S strategy
The 5S strategy involves the analyzing of business processes and eliminating those which don’t add value. These include sorting, setting in order, shining, standardizing, and sustainability. The 5S strategy incorporates considering everything existing within the shop floor and sorting through it to decide what is essential and what can be eliminated to save time or costs.
Ensuring safety at the workplace
Safety at the shop floor is of the greatest importance. The 5S strategy, if implemented, can help ensure a safer work environment. An employee accident on site can defeat the entire purpose of enabling a lean approach owing to the loss of productive time.
Build a process to track metrics
Measuring a process and its specific steps can help in building appropriate remedial measures and standards. A process tracking metric can help prevent issues on the work front which could otherwise have created physical or financial loss to the business and hampered productivity.
Lean manufacturing is a practiced art. By understanding the global need for elimination of waste, a business is contributing to the greater good of the environment and the company.
Implementing the aforementioned best practices can help you reap the many benefits of lean manufacturing in your business, leading to multifold levels of efficiency improvement and a boost in overall productivity.