What is Lean Manufacturing?
Lean is defined as a set of management practices to improve efficiency and effectiveness by eliminating waste. The core principle of lean is to reduce and eliminate non-value adding activities and waste.
Lean is a methodology to reduce waste in a manufacturing system without sacrificing productivity. The customer defines what is of value in terms of what they would pay for the product or service. Through lean management, what adds value becomes clear by removing or reducing everything that doesn’t add value.
Lean manufacturing, or lean production, is a system of techniques and activities for running a manufacturing or service operation. The techniques and activities differ according to the application at hand but they have the same underlying principle: the elimination of all non-value-adding activities and waste from the business.
The Five Lean Principles
To better understand the first principle of defining customer value, it is important to understand what value is. Value is what the customer is willing to pay for. It is paramount to discover the actual or latent needs of the customer. Sometimes customers may not know what they want or are unable to articulate it. This is especially common when it comes to novel products or technologies. There are many techniques such as interviews, surveys, demographic information, and web analytics that can help you decipher and discover what customers find valuable. By using these qualitative and quantitative techniques you can uncover what customers want, how they want the product or service to be delivered, and the price that they afford.
Map the Value Stream
The second Lean principle is identifying and mapping the value stream. In this step, the goal is to use the customer’s value as a reference point and identify all the activities that contribute to these values. Activities that do not add value to the end customer are considered waste. The waste can be broken into two categories: non-valued added but necessary and non-value & unnecessary. The later is pure waste and should be eliminated while the former should be reduced as much as possible. By reducing and eliminating unnecessary processes or steps, you can ensure that customers are getting exactly what they want while at the same time reducing the cost of producing that product or service.
After removing the wastes from the value stream, the following action is to ensure that the flow of the remaining steps run smoothly without interruptions or delays. Some strategies for ensuring that value-adding activities flow smoothly include: breaking down steps, reconfiguring the production steps, leveling out the workload, creating cross-functional departments, and training employees to be multi-skilled and adaptive.
Inventory is considered one of the biggest wastes in any production system. The goal of a pull-based system is to limit inventory and work in process (WIP) items while ensuring that the requisite materials and information are available for a smooth flow of work. In other words, a pull-based system allows for Just-in-time delivery and manufacturing where products are created at the time that they are needed and in just the quantities needed. Pull-based systems are always created from the needs of the end customers. By following the value stream and working backwards through the production system, you can ensure that the products produced will be able to satisfy the needs of customers.
Wastes are prevented through the achievement of the first four steps: 1) identifying value, 2) mapping value stream, 3) creating flow, and 4) adopting a pull system. However, the fifth step of pursuing perfection is the most important among them all. It makes Lean thinking and continuous process improvement a part of the organizational culture. Every employee should strive towards perfection while delivering products based on the customer needs. The company should be a learning organization and always find ways to get a little better each and every day.
TYPES OF WASTE (MUDA)
Waste, or muda in Japanese, is defined as the performance of unnecessary work as a result of errors, poor organization, or communication.
Quality professionals often debate whether or not there are seven or eight wastes of lean. The eighth waste of lean is unique from the original seven because its elimination can directly benefit the employees, as well as the employer.
The eight lean manufacturing mudas can be remembered using the acronym DOWNTIME.
- Non-utilized talent
Benefits of Lean Manufacturing
The importance of Lean Manufacturing in one company will differ from that of other companies. It will depend on where you start and what you put into it. But with the right level of commitment and planning, you will start to see some of these benefits of lean production in a short period of time.
Improving quality. As quality issues arise, problem solving techniques are used to root cause the problem. From there, mistake proofing is put in place to strengthen the process and prevent recurrence. As a result, the quality of your product will benefit from lean manufacturing techniques.
Improved Visual Management
Another benefit of lean manufacturing is management by sight. If done correctly, your plant will be set up so you can evaluate an entire area with a visual scan. Any abnormalities will stand out and be easy to identify as a problem. The benefits of lean management leads to a greater understanding of daily issues and areas that need to improve.
Line balancing will ensure each person in the process is working in the most efficient manner. Standardized work will ensure they are doing it correctly following the same method every time. Standardized work allows leadership to see the struggles and problems in production processes. This allows for continuous improvement and leads to repeatability and increased efficiencies.
One of the major benefits of lean is getting more done with less people. With standardized work and increased efficiencies, the ability to do the job with less people becomes a very real possibility. Following the respect for people principle would lead companies to utilize these employees in other areas. The concept of lean would have these freed-up people utilized to perform further kaizen activity, training to enhance skill level, or maintenance of the system once it is implemented.
Easier to manage
The work instructions and standardized work let people know what they have to do and when. This makes managing an area much easier. And problems will still arise. But they will be much easier to deal with in a team environment where the support groups are eager to help solve problems.
Total Company Involvement
Lean is meant to involve the whole company. It is not intended to be put into action in only one area. It is a management philosophy which should include every part of your organization. This helps promote the concept that everyone in the company is part of the team.
Lean manufacturing forces you to attack an issue and continue to investigate it until it has been eliminated. Root cause analysis and cross-functional teams are utilized to ensure a problem receives the level of attention it deserves to correct it.
As part of the waste reduction process, space will be created. Reduction of finished and raw inventory will save space vertically in your racking as well as horizontally across your floor.
Safer Work Environmen
Visual management and 5S will help identify when things are out of place. When unnecessary elements are removed from the operation, the workplace becomes much more organized. And an organized work environment is a safe work environment.
Improved employee morale
This is a benefit that may not be realized during the initial stages of your implementation (see resistance below). But once the concept of lean starts to get accepted by the employees, you will see employee morale on the rise. Employee involvement and empowerment will make all members of your company feel like a contributing part of the team. And the reduction of uncertainty in the workplace, as a result of lean, will reduce stress in your team members and lead to improved employee morale.