How To Make The Most Of Your Lean Manufacturing Tools

A basic, fundamental tool in Lean manufacturing that can help any business the ‘5S’ approach is an organizing, structuring technique to get rid of clutter and waste. Cleanliness and having a set place for everything is key. The name stems from the Japanese meanings and equivalent words for…
• Sorting things (seiri)
• Setting things in a particular order (Seiton)
• Shining, daily maintenance (Seiso)
• Standardization (Seiketsu)
• Sustainability (shitsuke)
Cut costs and reduce waste by applying these simple techniques to your business today. Cellular manufacturing has to do with organizing not the workplace only but the work as well. Work-cells and designated work- areas, certain spaces for certain activities, minimizes movement of people and things, therefore costing less. In an operational sense this means no batching, no waiting, no delays, no queuing, just smooth operation and easy flow.
Mistake-proofing (Poka-Yoke)-Built-in safeguards, reducing defects to zero is at the center of this approach. Highlighting problems as they occur, not letting mistakes, oversights and errors slip through is key. Processes are designed around this principle to be more efficient and will help your business cut down on cost, scrap and waste.
(SMED or single minute exchange of dies ) Quick and speedy change-over in business processes, manufacturing and operations are essential. Remember time and quality matters, means money! Process thinking is the key here.
Getting rid of unnecessary steps, actions or movement are key. Reducing time on any line, saves money. There is more to lean manufacturing that just these couple of tools. They just serve as an introduction to some of the major business enablers that Lean manufacturing can bring to your business and organization. Improving quality and speedy delivery rates are any company’s priority. Making and keeping customers happy is what it is all about. Lean manufacturing offer you the tools to do that practically, quickly, easily and consistently.
Two Key Rewards For Your Business Types Of Industry To Capitalize On:
Breakthrough profit and competitive advantage you can not change what you do not acknowledge or know about. Lean Manufacturing brings with the appeal and awareness to ‘take note’ and notice things around you (cost, waste, movement, clutter, scrap etc.) and then do something real, meaningful and constructive about it!
What improvements should and could be made are both important questions to ask, prioritize and act upon. Customer priorities, things that affect your incoming revenue should get attention quickly and first. Things like quality, lead and waiting, cycle time, cost, inventory and other internal processes that affect the customer and are ‘internal’ and controllable, should be dealt with as soon as possible.
Asking the right type of questions could provide you with hints as to a strategy and starting point:
• Which process or step should get the bulk of our attention where is the biggest WIN-WIN for both the customer and the company?
• What are all the priorities that we need to pay attention to in this organization/business and operation, map the processes and make the list. Then ask in what order you should tackle the priorities?
• How do we get the BEST improvements the quickest way? How do/can we tap into the benefits of Lean manufacturing right away?
If reducing overhead, quality costs and inventory to save money, reduce weight and be a smooth operating, streamlined and cost-efficient provider are keys to your business success, Lean manufacturing can help your business in all aspects and areas. Taking the theory of Lean manufacturing to the practical implementation will take planning, patience and persistence.
Determination, detail orientation and discipline. We often refer to these as the THREE p’s and the THREE d’s to make them easy to remember. Gradual, planned, focused effort is what it is all about. Step-by-step instructions and actions to get to improvements over time, that can be sustained, stable and predictable are essential.
If any of the following scenarios are important to your business, Lean manufacturing can help you reach targets and goals in this area that you set for you, your team and your business:
• Increasing operating margin and revenue
• Reduce manufacturing lead, wait and cycle times
• Lessen WIP or work-in-progress inventory (half completed product), time and space costs money!
• Reduce costs
• Reducing manufacturing overhead and quality costs
• Increase gross profit margin
• Get customers what they want, when they want it, anytime, every time and all the time, quickly and correctly, affordable and on-demand.
• Achieve consistent quality and low defect rate (scrap/waste)
Make the most of your shareholder value and you can not go wrong. Achieve high levels of improvement rates and customer satisfaction, quality products, low costs and do so quickly and you remain competitive and profitable.
Get and keep your processes under control and improve getting better all the time, setting and positioning yourself head-and-shoulders above the masses and mediocrity. Help define and execute your competitive edge with a well-thought out, supported, gradual deployment, throughout or Lean manufacturing in your business and you are set for desired outcomes, success and results!
Having a very real measurable impact and resulting dramatic improvements in your business listening to your customer complaints can give you great hints as to where some of the problems might lie. DO NOT hesitate to ASK them! They will tell you. It is a wonderful opportunity and channel to let your customers know that what they want, say and need, really matters. If you provide this level of responsive personalized business, you will have success, not only now, but also, in the future.
Slow and inefficient processes, finished goods just sitting around or waiting for things to happen all cost money. Finding ways to cut down on these is the challenge and opportunity that Lean manufacturing brings to your business. This is oftentimes referred to as the so-called ‘hidden factory’ or unseen cost of ‘doing business’. Once you put a number on it and are aware of it, you will benefit from ways to reducing it or eliminating it, adding to your bottom line and cutting down on cost and waste. That is the heart and purpose of Lean manufacturing.
Getting rid of things (even internal process steps, time and inventory) that add no value to your customers is a top priority too! The costs of poor quality products, services and waste add up over time and could cause you the loss of loyalty and potential repeat/new business. Really taking issues with these aspects can save you money, time, ensure quality and customer retention, satisfaction and more business!
Customer want to do MORE business with a provider that is reliable, quick and affordable, stable and predictable. You set certain targets in certain areas of your business and work diligently towards them, the results will be evident quickly and these changes will ‘stick’ and be sustainable over time, which is what you are really after. Ask yourself how long it takes you to get your product and service out the door and in the customer’s hand.
Seconds, minutes, hours, days, weeks. Asking the question is important, raising awareness. Putting a number to it, makes it visible, measurable and enables to do something about it! For example cutting it down or in half! Any and all processes within your business are fair game! No exceptions. It does not only have to be manufacturing processes. Other examples could easily include: product development, order entries, design, customer service, HR and financial processes as well.
By taking this ‘overall’ holistic approach to improving your business in all areas and aspects, means you are in effect adding value to your business, growing your profits and bottom line, while streamlining and becoming a smooth, low-cost, predictable partner and provider of choice! Taking an analytical approach to business in this fashion opens your eyes to new channels and ways to grow and expand, strengthen and position your business for success and the following questions to ascertain if Lean manufacturing is right and holds potential for you and your business:
• Where is the real ‘time’ in our business spent? How much of this adds value to our customers? Is it worth it? Where can we make some changes?
• Is there any benefit in our business trying to establish a competitive edge getting goods and services to customers quicker?
• What kind of payback can we expect from these Lean manufacturing efforts? What are the financial gains and potential here?
• If we cut operating expenses, manufacturing cost, overhead, inventory, lead, wait and cycle times, how would it affect the bottom line? What would the dollar impact be weekly, monthly, quarterly, annually? Again these metrics will help you gauge your progress, raise awareness and give you a whole new outlook on what your business is doing well and where the areas for improvement would/could be!
• If we reduce our goods in waiting (WIP) and finished goods inventory what will that mean in dollars and cents to our business? What would be able to do with the cash at hand (investment, debt reduction, new machinery,marketing etc.) How can these changes and dollars save BEST benefit and grow the business? In any Lean manufacturing deployment and change management, improvement initiative in your organization/business, there are enabling aspects to pay attention to.
Some of the economic benefits or metrics to look out for to help you answer any of the above are:
• Operating margin
• ROIC (return on investment capital)
Packaging Business Ideas EBITDA
• Capital Turnover
• On-time delivery rates and ratios
• Cost of poor quality
• Quality performance, customer satisfaction data
If you have your eyes set on the top-spot in your industry, expanding your markets and horizons and increasing your market share, this is the way to go about it quickly, reliably and with sustainable gains. There is a simple rule of thumb here, central to all Lean manufacturing as well – any improvements made within your business should benefit the customer and add value.
Lean manufacturing succeeds in making the time, quality and cost issues within and between processes, start to finish, steps etc. visible and tangible. It gives eyes and ears to these processes, outcomes and allows you to do something meaningful and intervene to make things better, to the benefit for company and customer! It provides,,purpose, direction, baseline and practical means to get your results and effect changes for good.
Seamless operation,less bureaucratic, ‘lean’, stream-lines and effective processes make business successful. This overall business methodology and thinking will help you re-make, energize and shape your business better. You are now pro-active and hands-on in your operation, not leaving success up to random chance, but rather planning and executing for it.
Agility, adaptability, low-cost and responsiveness are all qualities that business should have and desperately need a Lean manufacturing cost as prerequisites and entry-requirements for doing business in the new economy. One of the great contribution that Lean manufacturing can/does make to your business is what we will call ‘shared purpose, remember a golden rule of lean: slow processes are expensive! Lean manufacturing helps you speed things up, without having to sacrifice quality, direction and goals’. This individual and mutual ‘orientation’ and ‘coordinated effort, gives common direction to all, fosters commitment and camaraderie.
It strengthens and builds the organization, links the leaders to the shop-floor employees and engages everyone at all levels to achieve better performance consistently. It is a unifying and motivational principle that will underpin and build your efforts, getting you results quicker and maintaining it over time. Making success stick, so to speak. So, ask yourself first and foremost how you think Lean manufacturing can help you in your business, consider your options, pros and cons or doing/not doing it and then make your decision.
Enable and strengthen your business by using Lean manufacturing tools to drive improvements, cost reduction and implement it across the levels and aspects of your business that matters most and reaps the highest rewards quickly.
Other aspects to consider for Lean manufacturing deployment in your business are as follows:
Leadership – leading by example from the top is key.
• The main flag-bearer and champion of this Lean manufacturing process and initiative starts with the business leader (CEO/President) and the senior management team. Buy-in and support can make or break the efforts of Lean manufacturing.
• Personal, hands-on, practical engagement, commitment, practice and even reward for full participation in these initiatives, being the drivers of performance percent is critical to and for Lean manufacturing success.
• Inspire and mobilize others.
• Corporate, business culture and infrastructure, support and championing of the Lean manufacturing efforts contribute to the momentum and success of it throughout the organization.
Include and engage EVERYONE! Lean manufacturing provides you the opportunity to harness and leverage the talents of the entire workforce and collective, not merely a hand-full of individuals or some employees. Make Everyone Count and Contribute! If lasting results and sustained top performance matters to you and your business here are the means to that end in the Lean manufacturing toolkit! Metrics and goals make things easier to achieve and practically act upon, effect, change, impact, reshape etc.
Infrastructure, support and deployment share the commitment, discipline and persistent toil to get to where you need to be. It starts with everyone, not just some! Have you customers front-of-mind at every step, process and corner of what you are doing, planning, improving, know what they value, why and how to get it to them quickly, effectively, consistently and affordable, anytime, every time!
Shareholder value and monetary impact are good guidelines for priorities and activity within Lean manufacturing. Improvements can/should be measurable and actually tracked! Engage everyone in the process, assign roles and responsibilities and tap into the full potential everyone has to bring to the table. Committed resources, time and training (initial investment) will pay off quickly. Mobilize your workforce and enable, empower and energize them.
• Vision- Making it all about our customers is another key concept. They are your incoming revenue streams, what keeps the wheels of your business churning. For once, make it count! Quality, time, what they want, when they want it can make you fail or success. Reducing variability is essential. Be consistent, predictable and reliable as a provider and/or supplier, business partner and make what they want a priority. Never merely focus on reducing defects, also know why you are doing it and how it adds value to your customer(s). Everyone has to understand this mutual undertaking, its value and potential and the role, contribution and recognition of their efforts and input.
• Right resources and projects. Having dedicated resources working tirelessly and exclusively on Lean manufacturing type processes and work, improvements and projects will have desired outcomes and effects. For meaningful performance improvement you need the right people and the right projects, working on the right value-added things within your business. Focused, deliberately targeted WORK is essential for results and success.
• Teamwork- it is about everyone’s role and responsibilities. All matter. Leaders, shop-floor, administrative, all staff can contribute and make a difference. Leaders often mount the charge and get the ball rolling, providing support and encouragement along the way. Direction and results matter here. Full-time sponsors, champions and process leaders encourages accountability and gets results quicker.
Problem-solving leadership, training and coaching might be required to, grunt-work, data collection and analysis and support. Investment in time and resources is well worth the effort and cost. It will reap you rewards you can only imagine when starting out. It will be exceed your expectation in as little as 1 year! You will start seeing results even quicker than that.
• Process and Tools- Tools and culture go hand in hand. You need both. So jumping right in and just focusing on implementing some key Lean manufacturing tools, might not be the most appropriate and/or effective way of unleashing the power of lean on your organization. Getting the support and infrastructure in place up front, planning for success, resources etc. might save you lots of time, money and headaches down the line, when it comes to actually doing the work and making the improvements!
Putting Lean manufacturing Ideas Into Action Takes Time, Discipline And Planning: Planning for success in any Lean manufacturing deployment is essential. Having metrics to measure certain things (the right ones too!) have to be paid close attention to. Infrastructure and support put in place and everyone prepared, trained in what the Lean manufacturing paradigm is, what the tools to use are and how to use the tools exactly have to be considered as well as part of your overall plan of action, if you do choose Lean manufacturing for your business.
Making it the way you do business is NOT only about projects! It is about so much more than that. It goes deeper and beyond. It is and will become the way that you do business. Everything we undertake in our businesses have to start with the customer, who they are,,what they want and how we can get it to them quickly, correctly, in working order, what they asked for exactly and to specification,,on demand, at an affordable price, delivered and guaranteed.
Sound like a tall order? Well, increasingly research shows informed, empowered customers know and get what they want and to stay viable, let alone be profitable and thrive, we need to have our businesses in line with delivering to all of the above in a cost-effective and streamlined, efficient way. A good plan of action, the right culture and voila you are all set to start your deployment of Lean manufacturing and unleash its power and reward on your business, profits and customers!
Now that we have determined that Lean manufacturing can actually help you eliminate waste, time, effort and material, is customer oriented and just-in-time delivery of what they want, reducing costs while improving quality, we can briefly switch gear and look at areas of the business where Lean manufacturing can help you and your customers.
Areas where Lean manufacturing can help: Making the most of quality and time, speeding up processes actually matter. It does make a difference. Waiting times, cycle times from start to finish all impact business success. Lean manufacturing is not just for manufacturing processes. It is for all processes. Knowing where to focus your efforts are also important.
The 80/20 rule of thumb in Lean manufacturing is a handy tool to help you prioritize and focus on what needs to get done right away, first, eventually, over time. 80% of the problems/potential is in 20% of the process, area or dynamic. It is up to us to find it and do something about it! BOTH manufacturing and transactional processes can benefit here Lean manufacturing can apply to any and all processes.
• Supply chain acceleration and management
• Logistics
• Manufacturing
• Design Processes
• Transactional
• Other
So far, we have discovered that Lean manufacturing is a business management philosophy and paradigm that asks for a shift in the way that we think about and do business. It clearly stems from a proud history and grounding in the quality movement (of more specifically Japanese automakers, before spreading to Europe and the west).
TQM or total quality management initiatives and Toyota’s early Production System put quality, time and cost, waste in the spotlight and clearer focus. Getting rid of the main sources of waste in business, means paying attention to things like:
• Over-production
• Wait, lead or cycle times (start-to-finish)
• Transportation
• Processing
• Inventory
• Motion
• Scrap
There are some great tools in the Lean manufacturing toolkit of which we mentioned FOUR initially to get you off to a good start. The logic and rationale behind the premise and argument for Lean manufacturing states clearly by reducing the waste, you are improving quality. As production time is lowered, costs are lowered.

READ  3 Brake Options For Kingpinless Swivel Or Rigid Casters In Heavy Duty Industrial Caster Applications