Lean Manufacturing 101

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We all want to go lean, and that’s not just a reference to the cliched New Year’s resolution about losing weight. Going lean in business can maximize resources, reduce waste, lower production costs, eliminate standing inventory, and/or increase labor productivity—all while maintaining the high-quality standards that had been achieved previously. This idea sounds pretty desirable in any capacity, but how does an organization go about going lean? Hint: In this case, going carb-free won’t work.

What is Lean?

If you look “Lean Business” up, you might be intimidated by the sheer number of crazy acronyms, confusing Japanese terms, and varied advice on what makes a lean practice.

What it all boils down to is that “lean” is a method for using less, reducing excess, and maintaining high quality through a series of principals, procedures, and planning policies. It encompasses everything from utilizing automated processes to establishing quality check progress points at every step so you don’t have to go back and redo stages to mapping every process ahead of time to plan for maximum efficiency.

While most lean strategies include the same basic principles, many offer some non-typical factors that can help your business become more lean such as:

  • Determining the correct amount of materials to have on-hand—maximizing the use of space without too much stock, while having what you need on-hand so you don’t waste time with backorders
  • Planning stages in advance to avoid unnecessary steps and inefficient use of time
  • Keeping your work in progress/process limited to one single item at a time to maximize efficiency and quality

Going Lean Benefits Customers Too

Customers may not even realize when and where organizations go lean because there is a requirement to ensure the same high-standard of quality in everything that is produced. However, they too benefit when a company uses lean methodologies. A lean organization understands customer value and focuses its key processes to continuously increase it. The forward-planning techniques and the reduction of unused materials often results in less time to market and can provide a more cost-effective solution for the customer.

Little Things can be Big for Lean

The phrase “every penny counts” is reflected in lean methodology when you consider time is money. When you look to go lean, every second counts as all those seconds add up to hours, days, and months. The goal is to reduce time in every single step—literal steps included, so something as simple as redesigning the workspace to decrease travel time between areas or to access tools can help you save time, and hence, money.

Bigger picture lean methods include practices such as incorporating:

  • Just In Time (JIT) delivery of products: producing only what you need, when you need it
  • Single Minute Exchange of Die (SMED): a rapid and efficient way of converting a manufacturing process from running the current product to running the next product
  • Six Sigma: a disciplined, data-driven methodology for eliminating defects
  • Design for Manufacture: designing products with the focus on making them easy to manufacture.

There are many additional components that businesses look to when they decide to make the leap to lean, but the lean manufacturer cycle has some unique criteria.

Lean Manufacturing Cycle

When adopting a lean strategy, it’s important to keep the manufacturing cycle focused around the value of the end-product. Consider these five steps:

  1. Identify value: ensure comprehensive understanding of what value the end-user will see in the product.
  2. Map the value stream: review all the steps of manufacturing cycle and eliminate any steps that don’t create value.
  3. Create flow: provide as much value to the end-user as quickly as possible by ensuring the steps that provide value occur quickly and concisely.
  4. Establish pull: create demand so the end-users seek out the product rather than having to push it on them. This helps ensure an audience once the product is market-ready.
  5. Seek perfection: continuously improve in areas of eliminating waste, making reliable processes, and maximizing efficiency.

With the end product as your focus, these lean manufacturing principals can improve your efficiency and reliability.

ACDi a lean manufacturing facility utilizing detailed manufacturing work instructions, integrated process control measures, and product and component traceability. Our methods allow for deviation when required to provide the needed flexibility within today’s competitive market. Your time and investment is our top priority, so every step we take is focused on maximizing efficiency in production.

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