What do you think of when you hear the term “lean”? If what first comes to mind is a lean cut of steak or a lean figure, your understanding of Lean Processing is halfway there. Similarly to these concepts, it is desirable to be a “lean” manufacturing company.
In our case, Lean Processing (or Lean Manufacturing) is giving customers the most value while using the least amount of resources. It is the elimination of waste throughout the manufacturing process.
What Is Considered Waste?
Throughout the product development process, it is important to recognize what waste is and to take steps to reduce it. Waste is considered anything the customer is unwilling to pay for, such as defects, overproduction, waiting, nonuse of personnel, transportation, inventory, motion, and extra processing. These activities take time and resources that do not add value. MPE’s goal is to minimize waste and provide our customers with great value.
Lean Measures and Their Benefits
Lean processing is focused on increasing efficiency and productivity. This includes changing the fit, form, and function of a product. Whether it is transforming and shaping raw material, or creating work instructions and designs, these activities add value to the product. Lean manufacturing creates shorter lead-times and higher profits, guaranteeing customer satisfaction.
At MPE, we take six different measures to ensure we are operating in a lean process:
- Setup Reduction
- Cellular Layout
- Cross Training
- Standard Work
Setup: the time between the last good part for job ‘A’ to the first good part for job ‘B’. Reducing setup will increase the capacity and throughput of our manufacturing facility, reduce the need for inventory, and improve flexibility.
Flow: the group of people working together, as a team, to maximize their output. This forms a “river” of products moving from one work center to the next – improving quality, increasing speed, reducing lead time, and improving team work.
6S: the process and methodology for creating and maintaining an organized, clean, safe, and high-performing workplace. This will promote pride and ownership in the work area, reduce waste, and keep employees safe.
Cellular Layout: arranging the equipment next to one another to produce connected work centers. This ensures the most efficient layout for employees as well as creating the shortest flow.
Cross Training: training employees to be proficient at more tasks. This allows greater employee task variety and therefore, increases job satisfaction. This also helps reduce unbalanced work center cycle times and increases output by allowing us to flex associates to the bottlenecks in the cell.
Standard work: a set of processes or work instructions that ensure employees complete their work the same way every time. This is a vital lean measure because it reduces variability in the products and improves quality – greatly reducing waste.
Understanding Your Role
When creating and sustaining a lean process, it is important to understand your role in the elimination of waste. Being able to recognize and identify what kinds of waste are evident in your organization is the first step in becoming a lean manufacturing company. Individuals will need to understand what they are required to do and change their actions to being lean and decreasing the current waste. The measures and principles discussed will guide the process and transformation into becoming lean.