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How can lean manufacturing improve production?

clock19132124.jpgLean manufacturing was developed to help companies quickly recognize problems and inefficiencies in their production process. Most manufacturing plants measure production as the output that is created by input used, meaning employee labor = output per hour. The slightest inefficiency in the production process can reduce your output per hour, which hurts your profit margin. Lean manufacturing is a way of life for most companies as it incorporates ways to change your production process to reduce waste and improve production. To gain insight to lean manufacturing, you must understand 7 different types of waste that may be hindering your company's ability to increase productivity.

1. Over-Production - This common type of waste occurs when you are selling products at or below the cost of production. This will occur if you produce too much of one product and it sits on your inventory shelves for too long. It decreases in value to the consumer and to your company and it wastes time and valuable space.
2. Inventory - Going along with over-production, warehousing too much inventory is a big waste. It doesn't make sense to produce products only to let them sit on the shelf for months. This steals money from your cash-flow that you may need to purchase other inventory materials. Lean manufacturing is based on zeroing your inventory and producing products on-demand. In order to do this, you must have accurate marketing predictions to keep up with the customer demands.
3. Motion - Motion refers to the production time and the operator motion. Quite often the operator (employee) causes waste in the way they handle the machinery and equipment. They stand awkward or they do not use proper mechanics. This leads to unnecessary workplace accidents and worker's compensations claims.
4. Conveyance - Another problem in the production process is conveyance. This refers to unnecessary movement by the machinery that causes damage to materials. The materials are moved without need and this causes materials to be lost and re-worked, causing the company to lose more money.
5. Correction - There are times when products are damaged during the conveyance phase, forcing the company to throw them out altogether.Scrapping the materials is costly, especially when you need to re-work the jobs again. If it takes an excessive amount of time to sort through everything to inspect the parts for errors, the company is wasting valuable time and money. The goal of lean manufacturing is to fix the problem so the inspection process never has to take place.
6. Processing - Company efficiency is based upon clear communication between all departments. There may be some questions pertaining to material requirements, manufacturing needs, and customer needs before the production process can begin. Processing will become a waste if communication is not resolved before the process starts. Customers that are making last-minute changes to the process are wasting time and money. They cause additional steps to happen that do nothing to help the flow of the manufacturing process.
7. Waiting - If you have employees that are just standing around waiting for orders, this is a waste. You don't want to pay people to be on the clock unless they are actually doing something. This also goes for machinery as well as employees. If a machine is left on for long periods of time and it is not being used, it is using energy. This also causes the machine to have more problems since it never gets to rest. Improper scheduling, inefficient shop floor control, and design all contribute to waiting.

Lean manufacturing is one of the best ways to eliminate waste and improve your customer satisfaction. Incorporating lean manufacturing adds value to your company and its products by evaluating how operations interface with customers and machinery.

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