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Using lean manufacturing to reduce costs and improve quality

Lean manufacturing was developed in part from the War Manpower Commission that led to the Toyota Production System (TPS). Lean manufacturing is a concept that focuses on eliminating seven wastes. Toyota defined three types of waste: "muda" or nonvalue-added work, "muri" or overburden and "mura" or unevenness. By eliminating waste, overall quality can be improved and production time as well as cost can be reduced. The Toyota seven wastes are as follows:
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 is based entirely on solving the problem of waste. It details a constant process of analysis, production and mistake-proofing. Lean Manufacturing is a holistic, comprehensive, enterprise-wide program designed to be integrated into your company's core strategy. Many experts believe Lean Manufacturing strategy is the most effective way to launch and sustain lean activities.
A second process of Lean Manufacturing is improving the `flow' or the smoothness of the work. Toyota developed this added process to improve the flow instead of focusing on waste reduction. The Flow is designed to produce goods at a constant rate and allow further processing to be carried out at a constant and predictable rate.
Why would I use Lean Manufacturing?
A key question for any company is "what will reduce costs and improve quality?" Lean Manufacturing is focused on "the right" that is; getting the right things to the right place at the right time in the right quantity. During this "right" process the Lean Manufacturing system also strives to achieve perfect work flow while minimizing waste and being flexible to change.
Implementation of Lean Manufacturing
Lean Manufacturing does lead to the overall reduction of costs in your factory, but it also teaches that most of the "extra" costs are assigned when the product is first designed. Many times it has been noted that employees will specify familiar, safe materials and processes rather than search for a new one. This tends to lead to expensive and inefficient programs and/or processes.
A good way to start is to set up a checklist and review it often. Product design can be cut in half with a few brainstorming sessions that improve overall company cost and performance.
Having an effective and efficient leader is a must! Toyota used a system of coaching and guiding the less experienced companies in their division. Implementing Lean Manufacturing is an entire cultural change, not just a focus on tools and methodologies.
In 2005/06, Warwick University found that Lean methods were applicable to the public sector, but most results were achieved by using a more restricted range of techniques with Lean Manufacturing. This study showed to most companies that they needed to encourage harder involvement and clear communication in the process.
Many companies have had outstanding results from implementing Lean Manufacturing. Cefla Group published they have accelerated business process by 87%. General Motors has implied Lean Manufacturing to cut down administration costs. They reported a $200 million dollar savings for halting the printing of catalogs for dealers. Chrysler also reported savings upward of $2 million by implementing Lean Manufacturing. Many other companies have reported cutting costs by 10% to 40% and increased productivity by 12% to 52%.
If Lean Manufacturing in applied with the correct idea's and tool's in mind, your company will be moving manufacturing forward in leaps and bounds!

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