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How Does Lean Manufacturing Work?

A company looking to increase the profit margin while decreasing the number of hours needed to create a product may ask "How does lean manufacturing work?"Lean manufacturing optimizes flow and makes sure that nothing is done that will not show an end result for the consuming public.

The first step to creating a lean manufacturing process is to study the process as it stands currently.Lean process changes occur after an empirical study has been done.This eliminates any chance that an old way of doing things will remain in the process just because it "has to be done that way."

Often times, people do what they were taught to do during the training process, and they may not know why it is done that way.For them, it just is.Lean manufacturing will not take that for granted.It will look at the process, at everything that is being done and then it will cut away the fat.

For example, in one company, an employee would spend an hour every day creating a report.The employee would then file the report in a file cabinet and not do anything about it.When the employee was asked why they did the report, the employee said that she was trained to do it.When asked if anyone had looked at it in the five years that she worked there, she said not to her knowledge.Yet, she continued to produce the report just in case someone needed it.This is the kind of thing that lean processes look to cut.

In the manufacturing process, lean processes aim at reducing the unreasonable work demands that management might impose on the system to meet quotas.One form of lean manufacturing is called Just In Time Manufacturing (JIT).JIT uses a pull technique to create products based on real time demand rather than demand forecasts.In this system, on hand inventory is reduced, and nothing is created until a signal is received to create the product in question.

In order to implement a lean manufacturing process, people need to be convinced that it will work for them and that it is not a tool of the corporate wonks being used to cut jobs and justify huge salaries at the top levels by creating great profit margins on the back of the company's employees.Instead, lean processes should always focus on the company's greatest asset - its employees.While management tends to looks at employees the same way that it would look at computers or a bag of bolts, employees are the ones who can drive the company to greatness or cause it to shrink into obscurity.Lean processes are all about harnessing the potential of employees by reducing the workload and the opportunity for mistakes that may create faulty products or cause workplace injury or death.

As a culture, America has forgotten that people are what life is all about.If a company can create a workflow that allows people to go home and spend time with their families, it will find that its employees will become happier and more productive.It may sound counterintuitive that people who work less become more productive, but it is true.

By following a lean manufacturing process, companies can help employees find the balance in life that is so important to happiness and creativity.The balance will also help employees be focused when they are at work, and rather than working for the weekend, they may just be interested in making sure that their jobs are done right the first time every time.Management can make that happen.

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