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Implementing lean manufacturing


Successful implementation of lean manufacturing has saved companies millions of dollars on lost production costs and other "wastes". To implement lean manufacturing, you need to identify which method you want to use. Once you identify this, you need to create a plan.

Start by appointing someone to be the leader. This person will be responsible for coaching the other staff members through the process.

You must also appoint a team to review product design and manufacturing processes. Almost all of the wastes found in lean manufacturing come from faulty product designs. Employees usually opt to produce a product they already know and waste additional time and money than spend time researching ways to make the product better and less-expensive.

Create a mock-up of your new product design before you actually pass it along to production. This can help everyone input their ideas about what needs to be changed and where you are wasting money. To help people get a better understanding of the product design, use Styrofoam models for a 3-D impact.

Seeing the product and actually handling it can give you a greater interpretation of some of the changes that need to be made. These changes are often not noticed on paper and you won't see them until you create the product for the first time.

The team of managers must also include individuals from your production team. They will be able to let you know how long it will take to actually produce the product and some of the hiccups you may have along the way.

Successful implementation of lean manufacturing must come from the managers. If management doesn't embrace a lean-thinking environment, it will be difficult for the employees to believe in it. Lean manufacturing can work from your production supervisors, but it is better to come from the top and trickle down to the production floor.

As previously discussed, you need to appoint one person to be in charge of the entire process. This person will be known as the Change Agent. Not only will they sit on product design teams and watch the manufacturing process, they will actively seek ways to change the normal course of action within the company.

The Change Agent must have a creative ability to think outside the box and look for creative ways to fix the normal operations of the company. Once others see the impact of the Change Agent, they will start to jump on board and you will have developed a lean environment.

Some of the problems you may experience with a lean environment include the following:

  • Frustration among rational thinkers. Lean manufacturing creates a sense of urgency and this may cause stress to some of your employees that cannot think creatively to grasp the concept of lean manufacturing.
  • Customer needs. Since lean manufacturing is focused on the immediate customer needs, it can cause misunderstandings and discomfort with staff members. Since the employees feel a rush to fix the problem immediately, they can quickly become flustered. Lean manufacturing should identify this problem and have buffers in the system to eliminate this waste.
  • Force. A common compliant with lean manufacturing is that people feel like they are forced to follow the changes instead of doing them out of their own free will. While this may cause some bickering among your staff, forcing your employees is part of the lean manufacturing process. The goal is to push people beyond their comfort level to eliminate waste and obtain the correct results.

There are several lean manufacturing firms out there that can help your business achieve the results you are looking for with lean manufacturing. They can help you organize the program and properly implement it without the headaches and frustration you may experience on your own.

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