To understand how the plant is performing, manufacturers measure and evaluate metrics based on manufacturing efficiency. Looking beyond input and output, manufacturing efficiency places value on the bigger picture, emphasizing each department of the factory is running in the most cost-effective, productive, and efficient ways.
Manufacturing efficiency is the goal. Lean manufacturing is the means to achieve that goal.
In lament’s terms, lean manufacturing is the process of maximizing productivity while reducing waste. Originating from Toyota in the early 19090’s, lean manufacturing has taken hold in plants around the globe as a method and process to achieve manufacturing efficiency.
What is Lean Manufacturing?
At its core, lean manufacturing maximizes productivity while minimizing waste. The overall goal is to deliver more value to the customer while eliminating anything that doesn’t add value (waste).
A global bestseller and the first book to articulate lean manufacturing, “The Machine that Changed the World”, written by James P. Womack and Daniel I. Jones, defines 5 principles of lean.
There are 5 key principles of lean manufacturing:
- Define value
- Map the value stream
- Create flow
- Establish pull
- Pursue perfection
Womack and Jones explain “Lean manufacturing as a five-step process: defining customer value, defining the value stream, making it “flow”, “pulling” from the customer back, and striving for excellence.”
In the world of lean, value is everything the customer is willing to pay for. At the end of the day, your focus should be on delivering value to the customer, and if they’re not willing to pay for a product, there is no value in that product.
All of your efforts should be customer-focused.
Map the Value Stream
Value-stream mapping defines every step in a process through a flowchart, beginning with raw materials and ending with finished goods. It shows the flow of information and materials at each step. The purpose of mapping the value stream is to reduce waste at each step, inevitably increasing efficiency throughout the entire process. Waste can cost manufacturers a lot of money so this is a very important step to follow.
Many regard value-stream mapping as the crucial first step in approaching and improving a process. “Map the value stream following the circuitous path of material (or paper or information) through your process,” “The Toyota Way”, author Jeffrey K. Liker explains.
By doing this, you’re theoretically becoming a leaner manufacturer. Liker recommends using “value stream mapping to develop future state visions and help “learn to see” as a step in transitioning a company to a lean enterprise.
After the waste has been identified and removed from the process, the next step is to confirm the process flows smoothly. If everything flows properly, there will be seamless activity and no interruptions as the product moves from one step to another.
If the process does not flow smoothly, there is work to be done in creating flow.
Pull manufacturing focuses on only producing products as needed, rather than the traditional method of planning production based on a forecast, commonly referred to as push manufacturing. Establishing pull eliminates too much work-in-progress inventory but does require flexibility and great communication in the plant to work effectively. Though, it is important to consider, has just in time manufacturing disappeared completely?
Improvement never stops. Continuous improvement embodies the idea that as manufacturers, you will constantly be improving processes. In the pursuit of perfection, you’ll follow the other four principles of lean manufacturing, aiming to find the root causes of quality and waste problems, fixing them along the way.
Lean manufacturers never stop in their journey to achieving perfection.
The 5 principles establish a plan for achieving a lean manufacturing organization, creating efficient and effective processes.
The Benefits of Lean Manufacturing
If there weren’t benefits of lean manufacturing, manufacturers simply wouldn’t implement or practice it. A few of the benefits include:
1. Quality Improvements
Improved processes and efficiency naturally lead to higher quality products.
2. Improved Productivity
More efficiency means higher productivity and better allocation of human resources.
3. Saves Resources
Beyond the obvious of reducing waste, lean manufacturing saves valuable time and money, allowing manufacturers to allocate resources elsewhere.
4. Better Lead Times
More efficient production means quicker turnaround and/or lead times.
5. Improved Customer Service and Satisfaction
Happy customers translate to higher customer retention and a stronger brand reputation.
6. Improved Employee Satisfaction
Employees who are satisfied in their roles are more likely to do good work and better contribute to the productivity of the company.
7. Better Sustainability
Lean manufacturing can lead to better sustainability in an economy rife with stiff competition, barriers, and challenges
Above all, as a result of all of the above-mentioned benefits, manufacturers will see increased profits and more business opportunities.
Potential Risks of Lean Manufacturing
Lean is a long-term commitment, and businesses may be tempted to “tip-toe” around the newly-implemented lean process to hit short-term goals. To do that would be negating the benefits of lean manufacturing entirely.
Efficiency improvements require thought-out plans, not only for the performance improvements likely to be seen but for where else to place employees when their normal tasks become more efficient with lean and thus require less time to complete. Alternative tasks must be established so productivity remains high. Remember, lean manufacturing simply automates and improves the manual, tedious tasks that take up entirely too much employee time. Rather, their time and efforts could be better spent on work that better contributes to the efficiency of the company. Humans are inherently creative and adept at problem-solving – their daily tasks should reflect that.
It’s also important to remember that lean is heavily involved, requiring the full commitment of every employee to achieve success, too.
Sacrificing of Long-Term Sustainability for the Short-Term
Processes and protocols that don’t necessarily benefit in the short-term but have great benefits for the long term may be eliminated haphazardly in an attempt to implement Lean practice. That is not the goal of lean manufacturing. In fact, a well-thought-out plan should be in place before implementation even begins. Consider it similar to studying for a test in school. In order to do well and get a good grade, it’s important to study and know the material beforehand.
Mingo Knows Lean Manufacturing
As a manufacturing productivity platform, lean manufacturing is a core aspect of SensTrx’s business model. We pride ourselves in the successes of customers who have streamlined processes and improved efficiencies as a result of Mingo. Great examples of those companies include:
- Versatech: Using real-time data and visual dashboards, Versatech increased efficiency by finding problems, solving them quickly, and continuously improving processes.
- Oral Biotech: With manufacturing productivity software, Oral Biotech increased OEE by 25%, nearly eliminated scrap, and created a culture of visibility and transparency.
- Tacony: The company tackled problems at the plants, reduced lead time by 150%, and saw a 9x return on investment by getting visibility into what was happening on the floor.
- Lyons Blow Molding: By automating production processes, Lyons Blow Molding reduced mistakes, increased the accuracy of data, and reduced non-value-added work.
Learn more about the efficiencies created by Mingo’s focus on lean processes today.
The Benefits of Lean Manufacturing Go Far
Lean manufacturing maximizes productivity while minimizing waste. By implementing lean practices, manufacturers will see quality improvements, improved productivity, resource savings, better lead times, improved customer service and satisfaction, improved employee satisfaction, and better sustainability.
Through efficiency improvements, lean will improve the success of the company, both in terms of productivity and by increasing the bottom line. While there are risks in every process improvement, the benefits greatly outweigh the risks of lean manufacturing.