Lean Manufacturing In 2015 – No Business Is Too Small

It is always great to read a well written article about the benefits experienced by companies that are implementing lean manufacturing principles.

Go Lean In 2015 – No Manufacturer Is Too Small To Benefit
To many small manufacturers, lean manufacturing is something that companies the size of Toyota or Boeing implement. And many small manufacturers that do adopt lean practices do so at a tactical level. Don’t be one of those companies.

If you embrace lean manufacturing as part of your company’s overall business strategy, long-term strategic benefits are possible including increased profits, decreased costs, and long-term efficiency gains…read more>

Atlas Copco Applies Lean Manufacturing

Atlas Copco is using lean manufacturing principles to produce its product. They share their old production lines and how they compare with their new design. They have been able to eliminate waste and improve their processes. They have made the operator the center of the production process. Their original assembly line was seventy meters long. The new production line is only fourteen meters long.

They have incorporated Poke Yoke using plates to allow them to kit their parts at the workplace. When the operator has completed the product the plate should be empty, with no parts left over.

Atlas Copco achieved impressive results after implementing lean manufacturing principles in their facility. On-time delivery increased by 15%. Quality improved by 11%. Inventory levels were reduced and so was the number of workstations.

Here is a video showing the new design for their production lines to produce their products.

What is Lean Manufacturing?

lean manufacturing system
10 Steps to Become a Lean Enterprise
Lean Mfg System

A Lean Manufacturing System is a continuous improvement process. When a company adopts it, they need to create an infrastructure to support the application of lean principles into their business practices. Dependent upon the size of the organization, this may require the need to deploy a full-time person to focus on the continuous improvement activities.  An important part of the duties of this person would be to train employees to identify “opportunities for improvement” throughout the company and participate as part of a continuous improvement team, also known as a “Kaizen” event.

Many companies cannot successfully implement a lean manufacturing system into their business therefore they will need to employ the services of a subject matter expert or a lean consultant who is recognized for their ability to successfully implement a lean manufacturing system. One of the first tasks for the lean manufacturing consultant is to identify where is the greatest need within the company to deliver the “biggest bang for the buck.” To do this the lean manufacturing consultant will map out the company’s operation and help identify specific areas for improvement.

Definition of Lean Manufacturing Terms

There are some terms that needs to be properly defined if a company wishes to learn about the lean manufacturing implementation process. Here are some of the more common terms that are used in lean manufacturing systems:

1. Value or Value-Added (VA)  is anything that a prospective customer would be willing to accept in exchange for their payment. Value can be broken down into three categories”

a) It must be done right the first time. Re-work is unacceptable to a customer, they want the best quality product!

b) It must change the fit,form or function of the product or service to meet the needs of the customer

c) It must be something that the customer is willing to pay for.

2. Cellular Manufacturing is the linking of machine and manual operations into the most effective combination possible to be able to maximize value-added activities while at the same time minimizing waste. The most effective lay-out is a U-shaped work-area or work-cell because it utilizes the smallest footprint for one-piece flow.

3. Kanban are often a series of color-coded cards that are attached to parts or part containers to be able to regulate the upstream production operations. Using kanban allows lean manufacturing system to control the quantity of products being delivered to a specific operation or series of operations. .

4. A Lean Manufacturing System is a process of analyzing the flow of information and materials throughout a manufacturing environment to be able to identify and eliminate waste (muda) to deliver value to the customer.

5. Non-Value Added (NVA), it will easily translate to a waste. A non-value added is any activity or process that do not add market form or runction or is simply not necessary. These activities are targetted by lean manufacturing processes to be able to be eliminated, terminated or simply reduced.

This is exactly what is lean manufacturing is trying to do, reduce if not eliminate unwanted processes or activities that translate to waste.

6. Pull system is the method of controlling and managing the flow of resources by replacing only the goods that has been depleted. They are therefore replenished. In a lean manufacturing system the goal is to create the necessary discipline in the replenishment and depletion in inventories.

7. Push System is the method where a company’s resources are allocated and scheduled based on forecasts. Using forecasting often generates larger batches of work which will force longer machine run times and an increase in inventory levels. Long changeover times also go hand-in-hand with large batches of work, which have to be managed and stored until they are ready for the next process.

8. Takt Time is a measure of the production system based on the available time vs. the demand of a customer. Takt time is used to calculate the pace or rhythm of the production of goods to be able to match the rate of demand from the customer. Takt time is the heartbeat of any lean manufacturing system. The calculation for takt time is: divide the available work time by the total number of units required by the customer e.g. 480 mins x 100 units = 4.8 mins per unit. A company would have to manufacture one unit every 4.8 minutes to meet the customer demand. If they make a unit every 5 minutes, they will not be able to fulfill the customer order. If they make a unit every 4.5 minutes, they will increase inventory levels, which is waste!

9. Quick Changeover is based on a system developed by Shigeo Shingo called SMED – Single Minute Exchange of Die. The purpose of quick changeover is to reduce equipment set-up times to allow more flexibility in meeting the changing demands of the customer. A company that has long set-up times cannot easily respond to sudden changes in customer demand. A customer will want their products or service now, today, not in three or four weeks!  Quick Changeovers give a company an advantage over their competitors by delivering their products or services in the shortest lead time.

The goal of implementing a lean manufacturing system is to improve the delivery of quality products or services to a customer, in the shortest time, at the lowest cost. A company that can do this in the most effective manner will be the most successful at growing market share and maintaining a loyal customer base.