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Lean manufacturing during a recession

The manufacturing industry has been hit hard by the current economic recession. Layoffs, drops in sales, and plant closings seem to be more and more common.

However, one process improvement that is very beneficial during a recession is lean manufacturing.

What is lean manufacturing?
A lean organization is one that reduces waste throughout the entire process of delivering a product or a service to a customer. By focusing on each step of the process as a whole, it is easier for a business to identify wasteful activities and processes between each step, allowing them to eliminate them and save time and money. This in turn makes the process more productive, resulting in more satisfied customers. IN a recession, satisfied customers and lowered costs mean a business that is more likely to survive.

In a recession, you should strive to bring lean into your organization. A lean business is one of greater success, happier customers, a reduced amount of wasted resources, and a commitment to continually improve while at the same time helping you to weather the current economic recession.

Benefits of a lean organization
The benefits of bringing lean into your total organization are many. They include:

  • Increased customer satisfaction. The whole concept of a lean organization is customer-centered. Customer satisfaction increases within a lean organization as lean reduces defects and is more efficient, resulting in quicker deliveries of products that are better.

  • Savings. A lean organization saves far more money than a company that has not incorporated lean. Bringing lean into your total organization reduces waste, which in turn reduces costs. In addition, the processes are more efficient, allowing businesses to quickly identify costly problems or areas and then work to eliminate them.

  • Employee morale/productivity. At a time when employees fear losing their jobs, lean means productivity increases as time-consuming processes are eliminated from the processes your small business uses. This results in faster turnaround to market, improving morale within the company.

  • Quicker time to market. When company reduces waste by bringing lean into their small business practices, products reach the market much quicker than they normally would.

Lean manufacturing in a recession
While bringing lean into a business it is an ongoing process, here are some steps your organization should take when bringing lean into the manufacturing process during a recession:
  • Establish goals or success measures. Establishing goals, or success measures, is the first step in bringing lean into your organization. These goals could be to improve customer satisfaction, or reduce production costs by 10%, or reduce the time it takes for the product to go to market.

  • Identify the waste and then work to eliminate it. Keep in mind that waste does not have to be tangible; anything that keeps the product from being produced and delivered in a timely fashion can be considered waste. This is why bringing lean into an organization is an ongoing process - there are always processes that can be improved upon.

  • Customer feedback. Because lean organizations are customer-centered, you must develop a system of customer feedback. You may have lean in your organization, but whether or not it is reaching its ultimate goal of exceeding the customer's expectations will be unknown unless you have a system in place. This could be through meetings, feedback forms, or mailers.

  • Service Agreements. Establish service agreements between each area of support, as well as its customers, to determine what is expected in terms of quality and service.

Lean manufacturing is more important than ever in a recession.

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