4 REASONS WHY LEAN MANUFACTURING IS IMPORTANT
Generically, there are two methods to grow your business;
- Increase profit margin
- Reduce cost
Lean manufacturing concept emphasizes the latter method.
By identifying waste, the manufacturer can practice proven ways to reduce unnecessary cost.
The ultimate goal is to completely eliminate wastes.
And finally, bringing only value to the customer.
There are many benefits to lean manufacturing;
- Reducing inventory levels
- Increasing output and efficiencies
- Improving delivery performance and so on.
But here’s my 4 reasons why lean manufacturing is important.
#1 LEAN BRINGS ISSUES TO THE SURFACE
There are multiple occasions where manufacturers refuse or simply does not know how to identify the issues faced in their operations.
This frustrating situation has accounted for many preventable losses.
Perhaps one of the greatest tools from lean manufacturing is the Value Stream Mapping (VSM).
In VSM, manufacturers will assess the process and obtain data from the production line.
By seeing with own eyes, the manufacturer can collect data and identify any wastes that are often ‘hidden’.
It is often the smallest issue that collectively impacts one’s business.
Such wastes can come in huge varieties and has different impacts on operation cost.
A manufacturer could easily run a Pareto analysis to identify the biggest waste factor and focus on the issue.
“Sometimes no problem is a sign of a different problem”
– Mark Rosenthal, author of The Lean Thinker
#2 LEAN PROVIDES RATIONAL DECISION MAKING
Most would agree that lean is facts-driven and does not rely on empirical results.
Each problem is solved with proven data.
One of the lean manufacturing proven concepts is the pull-strategy.
Majority of today’s mass manufacturer practices pull-and-flow concept to control their inventory from overproduction.
The pull-strategy are often implemented by using Kanban.
In order to prevent overproduction, there will be no job in the production line until there is a pull (demand) from the end customer.
When there is a demand, a Kanban will be ‘raised’ and the pull process begins.
With this, it eliminates the requirement for predicting or forecasting the customer requirement.
In this case, lean manufacturing provides the basis for lead time management.
Hence, Lean manufacturing has provided answers to all decision making questions such as:
- “How much earlier should we start producing?”
- “Should we procure the raw materials in advance?”
- “Should we reduce our line loads?”
#3 LEAN SIMPLIFIES COMPLICATED ISSUES
There is merit to complicated issues that could be solved by utilizing expensive ERP or MRP software.
A huge amount of data could be harvested from shop floor to devise that beautiful performance graph.
We all love beautiful graph and charts but such a chart is pointless if it does not identify the underlying factors to a problem.
“A relentless barrage of “why’s” is the best way to prepare your mind to pierce the clouded veil of thinking caused by the status quo. Use it often.”
– Shigeo Shingo
In Lean manufacturing, all problems are engaged with a barrage of questioning;
“Why, why, why, why, why?”.
The root cause analysis demands questions to be answered, regardless if it’s answered with a solution or another problem.
With such method, the most elusive issues often surface and proves to be something simple.
a production manager does not understand why isn’t one of his lines is not producing targetted output.
So he went to the line and asked a simple question to the operator;
Q: Why didn’t this line produce the target output?
A: Because we are not running a full 8 hours shift.
Q: Why didn’t the line run a full 8 hours shift?
A: Because the part is dented (defect) after the production run more than 4 hours?
Q: Why is the part dented when production exceeds 4 hours?
A: Because there is an insert inside the tooling that goes loose after 4 hours.
Q: Why does the insert go loose after 4 hours?
A: Because of recent wear-and-tear. The tooling has produced over 100,000 products.
So the production manager implemented a simple periodic tooling maintenance schedule based on output counts and permanently solved the low output issue.
If the production manager did not ask the operator and instead relies on his report and data, he might not find out about the root cause for a very long time.
#4 LEAN JUSTIFY AN ISSUE FROM BOTTOM-UP, NOT TOP-DOWN
When you solve the issue for a front-line operator, you solve the issue for the company.
In lean manufacturing, we do not ask about the CEO’s daily issue.
The main concern is always on the shop floor.
“There are three kinds of leaders. Those that tell you what to do. Those that allow you to do what you want. And Lean leaders that come down to the work and help you figure it out.”
– John Shook, first American Manager at Toyota Operations in Japan.
Certain management strategies force the production line to overwork, squeezing tough deadlines, demanding impossible output target and ignoring the quality concern.
Though such a strategy MIGHT work in a short period, it will never be healthy for the company in a long run.
In lean, the main focus is on the shop floor.
Operators are allowed to call for line stop if defects are found.
Operators insight and remarks are collected to figure out the issue.
Kaizen and 5S events are performed on the shop floor.
This implies a sense of belonging and responsibility on the shop floor as operators are involved in improvement activities.
It is very important to obtain this as it allows for long-term continuous improvement.
Regardless of the market trend, the lean manufacturing concept has proven to be beneficial.
It is not a business model, but a thinking and a set of tools for the practitioner to improve on their day-in, day-out operation.
Because of this, lean manufacturing has become timeless.
Think of it as a skill you obtained, like driving.
And once you know how to drive, you will continue driving without needing to go to driving school again.
Once you’re part of it, you will embrace the simplicity of execution it brings to all type of operation.
In today’s volatile market, manufacturers need to achieve continuous improvement in their operation to stay competitive.
With lean manufacturing as the foundation, manufacturers have (and will continuously) find success.
Written by REV ONG for what is lean.