What is Lean Manufacturing?
Many companies are fighting to survive in today's highly competitive global economy. Lean manufacturing offers them a proven method to reduce costs, eliminate waste, increase productivity, maintain high levels of quality and still make a profit. Implementing lean manufacturing, and proper application of its principles, can help any company survive in these difficult financial times. It is a system that can be used not only in production areas but any other area that you are looking to streamline such as retail, hospitals or offices. It requires top-down commitment and bottom-up involvement. Lean is a method that improves processes through continuous improvement (kaizen) and elimination of waste. It is the North American equivalent of the Toyota Production System. The foundation of Lean Manufacturing is leveling of production, known as Heijunka. Simply put, the work load each day is level. Building upon that foundation are two main pillars which represent "Just-in-time production" and "Automation with a human touch". Just-in-time production means only product required is produced. Automation with a human touch signifies that machines are equipped in such a way that they can detect small errors when processing and have the ability to stop the process. These two pillars are joined by a respect for humanity which means associates are respected and viewed as valuable contributors. Applying Lean principles can greatly improve efficiency as well as quality. A key aspect of this system is the building of quality into the process; do not pass a defect on to the customer (the next process). Through application of this fundamental rule, problems are highlighted immediately and addressed just as quickly. Benefits of lean manufacturing – short/long term benefits and challenges explained Before investing in any major project, you need to compare the potential benefits to the costs. Lean manufacturing is no different. You need to consider whether or not the benefits of lean will outweigh the costs incurred to implement. And understanding these differences will help you determine whether or not lean is right for your company. Short and long term benefits
The results your company can expect to see 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 in a short period of time. Listed below are some of the more common benefits you can expect to see. Others may present themselves as well.
Improved quality – A lot of the activity in a lean environment is geared towards 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 be improved. 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. Increased efficiency – 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. This leads to repeatability and increased efficiencies. Manpower reductions – 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. This does not mean you have to send these people to the unemployment line. 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...
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