Lean Manufacturing

One of the biggest trends among businesses (small businesses included) today is to maximize the productive and environmental efficiencies in which they operate. One of the biggest ways to complete this is to ensure that you are only using the materials and processes that you need in order to complete a project. This is where lean manufacturing comes into play. Lean manufacturing explores a company’s continuous efforts to reduce the waste associated with their production, design, and customer service. Being a “lean manufacturing” business is all about keeping your processes as efficient as possible, while still maintaining or improving the value that you give to the customer. At the same time, there exists a long-term goal of creating growth within the business.  In order to understand the strategies that a business can take to reduce their waste, we must first understand what the parts of the process that most often contributes to these dips in efficiency.

7 Waste Targets of Lean Manufacturing:

  1. Transportation:

    This waste can take place in production, supply chain, material delivery areas, or within offices. Beyond simple transportation costs (labour, gas) it also has an impact on your overall lead or cycle time. An example of lean manufacturing process is to have a clear and easy to access loading area to reduce time moving.

  2. Inventory:

    Excess inventory can have a large impact on your organization if left unaccounted for. What makes this waste so important to avoid is that it affects more than just your production process. Inventory waste can be found in raw-materials, sub-assembly, finished goods, office supplies or MRO (maintenance, repair, or operations), and is a direct result of overproduction (see 7. Overproduction).

  3. Unnecessary Motion:

    This involves keeping your needed materials as accessible as possible while also limiting the amount of movement required for taking a project from start to finish. For example, having a frequently used drill always out of arms reach would create unnecessary motion and less efficient operation. A way to lean manufacturing businesses correct this is by having common tools close to the workers.

  4. Waiting:

    This is counteracted by ensuring that your time is being used as productively as possible. This waste can occur because of product shortages, manufacturing downtime, or during work in process. A thorough examination of your delivery, handling, and machining methods can help to provide solutions to this problem. For example, a lean manufacturing business would look at creating several parts at the same time rather than just one at a time.

  5. Over processing:

    This waste examines the cost of a particular task that you are paying to complete but isn’t adding any additional value to the product. A simple example of this would be the task of painting the back of a cabinet. Given that that side of the cabinet will not be seen, it would not have a functional impact if that step were left out. It is also worth looking at whether or not there are better methods of production that can provide the same result without as many unnecessary steps.

  6. Defects:

    Incorrect or dysfunctional products can have a crippling impact on the success of a product. This is such an important factor because it not only creates functional waste, such as unusable scrap or time used in reworking, but also could create a wasted/unhappy customer.

  7. Overproduction:

    This is the most dangerous waste. Overproduction usually occurs when companies refuse to consider shutting down production due to a lack of orders. Not only are your cost of goods sold not being covered, but you are also creating storage and labour costs in order to hold the products that you hope to someday get rid of.  In some cases, the excess inventory can become obsolete over time as updated models are produced. This excess inventory can also lead to efficiency issues when normal production resumes.

In part 2, we will use Hypertherm Inc., our plasma system supplier, as a perfect example on how to avoid these wastes and successfully create a lean manufacturing process.


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