The MPE Degree

Streamlining Production with Lean Cells

At their core lean business ideologies aim to do more for the customer while simultaneously consuming fewer resources. Lean processes are often used to optimize manufacturing, but can be applied to all areas of work.  At MPE, we have adapted lean principles to our manufacturing processes.  Specifically, we have implemented lean manufacturing cells focused on reducing manufacturing lead time. 

Some things to keep in mind when designing a lean cell in order to ensure maximum efficiency:

  • Keep it as simple as possible.
  • The assembly sequence should be logical and sequential. Minimize movement and make sure sub-assemblies are produced at the next point of use.
  • Work stations should be ergonomic: keeping the task and the operator in mind.
  • The footprint should be compact, but adequate.
  • Optimize with visual organization: provide a visible layout of all parts and tools required to complete the task.
  • Standardize the work procedure for repeatability. Include quality inspection and error proofing in the process. Minimize over-handling and backtracking.

A fundamentally lean organization equates the epitome of success with creating a perfect value creation process attaining zero waste.  A critical shift in managerial style is necessary in order to implement lean manufacturing principles.  It redirects the focus from the optimization of separate technologies, assets, and vertical departments to the optimization of the flow of products and/or services through the entirety of the value stream – moving horizontally across the product platform.

In order to stratify our highly diverse product mix we have formed lean manufacturing cells staffed with up to 8 highly skilled team members.  In the cell, parts are fabricated utilizing multiple methods, such as cutting, forming, inserting, welding and metal finishing.  It requires cross-trained personnel who can proficiently operate multiple machines and/or execute multiple steps within the manufacturing cycle.  This workflow negates the formation of Work In Progress (WIP) piles which add to “waste”: excess inventory, over-handling.

The reduction of waste, or “trimming of fat”, around the overall value stream versus isolated points are less intensive spatially, demands less human effort, and reduces lead time at a reduced cost compared to traditional means of manufacturing.  These focused systems allow us to respond to acute changes in our OEM partners’ needs in a fraction of the time it would take for traditional manufacturing to adapt.

Our quality has improved alongside our lead times since we’ve implemented our lean cells.  With multiple stations operating in sequence within the cell the part spends more time in the hands of employees making it easier to adjust our processes in accordance with our quality standards.  As each part is processed then handed from one operator to the next, the teammate is managing and observing a single part at a time.  This increases quality awareness, providing more opportunity to catch imperfections or processing issues.  The lower lead times add value for our partners and, in return, increase customer satisfaction.  

Read: Using Cellular Manufacturing for Responsiveness

CALLING ALL EMPLOYEES

At MPE we strive to apply lean principles to the overarching areas of our business in effort to develop more efficient protocols wherever possible.  We know that our most valued insights come from our teammates in charge of doing the work every day therefore we turn to our employees through lean evaluation activities such as GEMBA walks (walk and see the status of work being done) and Continuous Improvement projects to highlight and address areas where workflow can be improved.

Read more about MPE’s Implementation of Lean as covered in Manufacturing Today.

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