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What does lean manufacturing mean?

interview26236689.jpgMany companies turn to lean manufacturing to reduce or eliminate waste from their manufacturing processes. The goal of any plant is to reduce waste and produce better products for their customers. Lean manufacturing originally got its start it Japan and it has expanded all over the world to hundreds of companies.

What types of waste do companies generally have?
Waste doesn't only apply to manufacturing plants, just about any business will have some sort of waste. Identifying the waste is an important part of lean manufacturing as it helps you to reduce costs and improve the overall performance of your company.Some waste that is common within all types of companies includes the following:

  • Excess materials

  • Too much inventory

  • Wasted time by employees being idle

  • Spending too much on raw goods

  • Excessive time on one job by an employee or a machine

While you may be unable to reduce or eliminate all of the waste within your company, you can take a number of steps toward reducing them and improving the performance of your company. When you use lean manufacturing, the ability to reduce the waste is easy to do. Some of the wastes will be visible and you can easily fix them while others will be a little bit harder to pinpoint.

Implementing Lean Manufacturing is a mindset change. Sometimes waste happens because companies get into a routine of doing things the same way they always have instead of trying to adapt to change. Focusing on changing the mindset's of your employees will help with successful lean implementation and this responsibility is going to fall mostly to the managers and management individuals that are responsible for setting the example for the rest of the company.

One of the biggest wastes within a company comes down to inventory. How much inventory do you really need to hold? The big goal of lean implementation is making products to order. Reducing your inventory is an important part saving money and reducing waste. When a product is manufactured and it is placed in inventory, it depreciates in value and it continues to lose its value until it is sold. So what is the solution to proper inventory control? The success lies in implementing kanban into the company. Kanban is commonly called "just in time" manufacturing because you are making products to order. There are several parts of just in time that you can use but the overall goal is to make products to order. A lot of companies use the two bin system as this helps you to know when you need to reorder products because you will use up your inventory and reach bin 1 that tells you to reorder. While the new products are being produced, you can use up bin 2 so you never run out of inventory but so you aren't holding too much inventory that it is wasting space and money.

Successful implementation of lean manufacturing isn't something that you can expect to implement and see overnight success. You need to have time and patience as you focus on the identification and elimination of waste.

The biggest hurdle may lie in your employees. Are they on board with the new changes? Since employees can often cause waste you may need to look into letting go of the "dead weight" staff members and hire some new employees that will adapt easily to the new way in which you are running the company.

Implementing lean manufacturing can be easy or it can be a long process. Look into hiring a lean company to come in and implement it and train your employees.

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