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How to implement changes to your manufacturing system cheaply

How does one go about a highly complicated and seemingly expensive process such as implementing important changes to one's manufacturing system-and do it cheaply, economically? First of all, perhaps it is best to stick with that second word, economically, as it implies intelligence rather than stinginess. The key to implementing changes to a manufacturing system without spending a lot of money is intelligence. Let's consider some factors that might go into making such changes.

1. First off, implementing changes to one's manufacturing process cheaply or economically means one doesn't want to add complexity to an already complicated situation. In other words, one doesn't want to bring in more stuff from the outside to take care of the already overstuffed inside. The tools for implementing changes to one's manufacturing system cheaply or economically are right in front of one. One doesn't need to buy anything new, in other words. Once can use one's imagination, creativity, willpower, and ability to research to implement important changes to one's manufacturing system without spending a lot of extra bucks.

2. What does this mean? For one thing, it doesn't mean bringing in a bunch of outside "experts" and paying them a hundred dollars an hour to analyze one's manufacturing system when one can do this oneself, and has been doing it for years. One needs simply to ask oneself, and one's teammates and coworkers, "What are we doing currently that could be done more economically? Where are we wasting manpower, physical and mental? What are the distractions that keep us from doing our best? What's superfluous, redundant, and unnecessary about our manufacturing system as it currently stands?"

3. In answering these questions-in successfully pinpointing and confronting such problems and setbacks-one has already gone a long way toward implementing changes to one's manufacturing system cheaply or economically. The way to do it has is clear, and now it comes down to the process of incrementally (i.e., slowly and practically) introducing the little changes that lead to less waste in this specific area and that specific area. Implementing changes to one's manufacturing system cheaply or economically, then, is as much about stopping certain processes as it is about starting them. One should be thinking, "stop" at the start. One's manufacturing system, after all, was started a long time ago, and starting all over again would be a real waste of time and money.

4. This leads to the idea that such a monumental procedure is best undertaken by a group rather than by a single individual. "Many hands make light work." Many minds should come together to discuss the question of implementing changes to a manufacturing system cheaply or economically. And this means minds at the top of the power structure and minds at the bottom of the power structure. Top and bottom in this sense are meaningless insofar as describing quality goes. The folks in the assembly line, after all, have a better view of what's clogging the line than the suits in an office downtown. Implementing changes to a manufacturing system cheaply and economically can only be done if everyone, from A to Z, is on board, is on the same page.

5. Lastly, let's press the point home again that implementing changes to a manufacturing system cheaply or economically must be done incrementally, practically, slowly, day by day. Nothing's more likely to kill a manufacturing system more quickly than trying to resuscitate it too fast. Relax! The patient's already breathing, in fact he's on his feet and doing pretty well. What one is concerned with at this point is helping the patient makes those little steps that lead from "pretty well" to "really well, and doing better all the time."

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