What is Lean Manufacturing?
Lean Manufacturing is a continuous and systematic production methodology. It involves the identification and elimination of activities that do not add value in a process but do involve cost and effort.
The main philosophy behind Lean Manufacturing is based on the premise “everything can be done better“. That is to say, that in an organization there must be a continuous search for improvement opportunities.
As a result, an organization that applies it should adjust its production to demand. Above all, this process must be done in the time and quantities requested, with a minimum cost.
Therefore, Lean Manufacturing can be defined as a production philosophy that brings together a set of procedures. The aim is to design a strategy to satisfy customer needs with minimum cost, competitive quality, and high flexibility.
Consequently, Lean Manufacturing will allow the organization to:
- Reduce the inventories
- Minimize the delays
- Decrease the workspace
- Minimize the total costs
- Reduce the energy consumption
- Improve the quality
In general terms, it contributes to making the organization more competitive, innovative, and efficient.
Who participates in Lean Manufacturing?
The Lean Manufacturing methodology must be executed by inclusive, organized, and trained work teams. In other words, the workers involved in Lean techniques should represent all of the different levels within the organization.
By incorporating Lean manufacturing, it is necessary the active participation of the plant operators in all the stages of the methodology.
Lean Manufacturing Strategic Model and Tools
The continuous search for new opportunities and improvement must be part of an organizational strategy. Lean Manufacturing philosophy involves tools that companies use to perform specific processes and generate an improved management system.
Lean Manufacturing tools applied to a strategic model
- Speed (elimination of waste):
- Continuous flow: Line balancing
- SMED technique
- Layout design
- 5’s and Andon
- Quality (elimination of variability):
- Six Sigma
- Poka Yoke
- Problem solving
- Statistical tools
- Work Standardization
- Delivery (logistics):
- Lean logistics
- Theory of constraints
To clarify, in all of the above, operational excellence is driven using the KAIZEN methodology.
Key principles and phases in the implementation of Lean Manufacturing
Organizations that seek to implement the Lean methodology aim to improve the performance of their processes.
In this quest, many organizations have failed in obtaining significant results. As a result, it is very important to consider that Lean Manufacturing is a philosophy that requires organizational commitment and cultural adaptation.
Experts have explained that in order to get significant results, it is important to consider these principal keys:
- Lean Manufacturing is a strategic project: Firstly, this must be included in the organizational strategic plan and related to the competitive priorities of the company.
- The organizational structure must adapt to the Lean methodology: In such a way that there are more concurrent processes and less «communication on the wall». In this way, functional structures must migrate towards collaborative structures.
- Lean Manufacturing is everyone’s commitment: The implementation of the strategy will be gradual, however, it should integrate all levels of the organization. The biggest change in the company is its cultural nature, the improvement must become everyone’s habit.
Phase 0. Traditional: Preparation (1 – 3 months)
- Diagnosis of the current situation of the company
- Hoshin Kanri
- Responsible Teams
- Lean Management
- 5’s methodology preparation
Phase 1. Application: Pilot Areas (4 – 6 months)
- Application of the 5’s
- Training of the pilot team
- VSM, current and proposed layout
- Analysis of productivity limitations (MUDAS, MURIS, MURAS)
- Previous stage of Lean Accounting
- Previous stage of Lean Logistics
- Execution of an energy saving plan
Phase 2. Value chains: Chain Management (1 – 2 years)
- Organization chart approach
- Application of Phase 1 in all areas
- Lean Accounting
- Lean Logistics
Phase 3. Lean Organizations: Lean Thinking (Permanent Habit)
- Make the organization the best place to work
The traditional stage in the Lean path consists of diagnosing the current situation of the organization. For this reason, designing an adequate strategic plan, and creating an optimal work team must be part of the process.
In other words, the first stage of application confronts the organization by identifying its flaws and mistakes, in order to change them with its new techniques. The value chains stage focuses on the structure of the organization and collective work model.
The application of phase 1 is extended to other areas, like logistics and Lean accounting. Consequently, delivery processes optimize, and performance indicators enable decision-making, based on results and vital information.
The final stage has the purpose of achieving a Lean organization, making their Lean thinking, based on commitment, discipline, and knowledge management.
In conclusion, a Lean organization must reflect in all its areas and processes the highest possible value, and in all its members, the idea that this organization is the best place to work on.