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Building a lean environment

windmills30521278.jpgIn order to build a lean manufacturing environment you must have total dedication from your employees and you need to have good manager. To create a lean environment, you must select which type of lean manufacturing works for your company. Most companies select the Toyota Production System (TPS) which is also known as just-in-time manufacturing. This method focuses on eliminating waste within the company and putting the customer first. Each department must take steps to ensure that the customers are satisfied.

To eliminate wastes within the company, you must identify them. Toyota defines waste as being three-form, muri (overburden), mura (inconsistency), and muda (eliminate waste). Muri or overburden is considered to be all the unreasonable work that management assigns upon workers and machines due to poor organization. Some examples of muri are carrying heavy weights, dangerous tasks (behavior-based safety issues), and working at a significantly faster than normal pace. Muri defines this work as pushing a person or machine to a pace beyond their normal limits. Muri is associated with the preparation or planning phase of the production process.

Mura or inconsistency focuses on the implementation and elimination of fluctuation of scheduling. This usually falls to the operations level to schedule the quality and volume of the production process. Finally, muda or waste elimination is dealt with after the process is completed. Management oversees muda and should consider how to eliminate the deeper causes of muda formed in muri and mura. Once the causes are determined, management will then use them in the next project and slowly begin eliminating all waste together.

To create a lean environment, companies typically turn to the visual control tools, the 5 "S" approach, the kaizen method. Each method helps to organize the workplace to reduce problems and create a smooth-flowing environment.

Visual control involves using colors, lights, and signs to organize the office environment. For example, employees that are inspecting products will put the ones that pass into the blue box and the ones that fail into the red box. This way the defective items can be recycled and re-worked and the employee doesn't need to communicate anything to let their co-workers know this.

The 5 "S" approach to lean manufacturing derives from five Japanese words that begin with `S'. The 5 "S" approach was created to simplify your work environment, reduce waste and improve safety, quality, and efficiency. The five words are: Sort (Seiri), Set in Order (Seiton), Shine (Seiso), Standardize (Seiketsu), and Sustain (Shitsuke). The entire process is focused on removing waste and making the workplace organized so employees can easily find the tools they need to properly perform their job responsibilities.

The kaizen method is one of the best ways to create a lean manufacturing environment. Management assumes a larger role in kaizen because they are in charge of controlling the maintenance of the process along with the improvements that come along with it. Maintenance refers to maintaining the current managerial, technological, and operating standards. Improvement focuses on finding ways to improve the current standards. Kaizen involves everyone within the company as it is focused on improving the entire company to make communication more effective and to reduce the common mistakes within the company. Employees and managers are in charge of identifying small improvements that can be made to improve everyone's job responsibilities within the company and to make the company run smoothly and effectively.

Companies that have implemented lean manufacturing have found that most of the problems actually come from their managers. Typically the senior managers drop the ball and they don't follow through. In order for lean manufacturing to work, everyone within the company must be 100% percent committed to it and it must be a daily process, not just a new process that is used when convenient.

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