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Understanding lean manufacturing


Boeing, Lockheed Martin, Toyota, Honda, Emerson, Honeywell, and Ford are just a few of the companies that have implemented lean manufacturing. Lean manufacturing was originally developed by Toyota as a method to reduce waste. The goal of lean manufacturing is increase output by eliminating different wastes. According to Toyota, there are 7 different types of waste that exist:

  1. Over-production (production ahead of the demand)

  2. Waiting Time (waiting for the next production step)

  3. Transportation (moving products that are not required to perform the processing)

  4. Over-Processing (Poor tool or product design creating activity)

  5. Inventory (Finished product not being finished)

  6. Motion (people or equipment moving or walking more than the production requires)

  7. Defects (Effort involved in identifying and fixing defects)

Lean manufacturing targets the assembly line as the area with the greatest waste. Workers on the assembly line cause waste to exist through human errors or through mechanical errors.

The goal of lean manufacturing is to educate these individuals and help them learn how the production system should work. The assembly line workers gain more control over the company and they have the ability to make decisions that will impact production.

Another area that lean manufacturing focuses on is your inventory. Holing too much inventory is seen as a waste so instead of ordering large quantities of products, lean manufacturing teaches that you should have small lots of your product delivered on a daily or weekly basis. This will help to reduce excess inventory from wasting space and sucking all the money from the cash flow. In order to engage in lean manufacturing with your suppliers, you must have relationships with suppliers that understand your business wishes and comply with them. They will understand the need to have a rapid flow of products and services and will be able to get more products to you within 24 hours.

Studies done on different manufacturing strategies have found that lean manufacturing is the most cost-effective way to run a business. Not only does lean manufacturing deal with the wastes at the company, it deals on improving the entire flow of the company. Improving the flow simply means you are focused on producing products at a consistent rate. This allows other processes within the company to be predictable and it helps to prevent miscommunication between departments.

Some of the advantages of lean manufacturing include the following:

  • Lower lead times

  • Reduced set-up times

  • Lower equipment costs

  • Reduced maintenance costs

  • Increased profit

Lean manufacturing is truly a method to help your customers. The goal is to come as close to perfection as possible. Your workers will learn how to produce the right products at the right time in the right quantity and for the right customer. During this entire process of getting everything right, the employee will also be able to keep the waste to a minimum and become more responsive to customer demands.

Companies that implement lean manufacturing see success almost immediately. Cefla Group found that implementing lean manufacturing improved their business process by 87 percent.

Other companies have found that lean manufacturing cut costs by nearly 40 percent and increased productivity by almost 50 percent. General Motors reported that they save nearly $200 million dollars from lean manufacturing just by halting the printing of catalogs for all of their dealers. Chrysler is another company that saved millions of dollars by implementing lean manufacturing; they reported a savings of $2 million.

Implementing lean manufacturing will take some time to do and it may require some up-front costs, however the savings will far outweigh the investment.

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