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Dec 11, 2010

Analytic Tools for Successful Lean Manufacturing Implementation

A lean manufacturing implementation has as one of its major goals reducing and eliminating waste. The waste that Lean solutions seek to eliminate takes several forms. And for each form of waste there is a specific tool that lean manufacturing consultants use for identification and analysis and, ultimately, elimination. Let's look at just a couple.

Because the goal of Lean implementation is, among other things, to eliminate waste, the first object is to identify the areas or forms of waste in a particular company. Generally, though, here's what lean manufacturing examines first with respect to waste: unnecessary human motion, non-value-added conveyance of product, over-production, excess inventory, under-utilized space, over-processing, unneeded waiting, and poor utilization of talent. Two of the most easily addressed and corrected involve human motion and conveyance of product.

Unnecessary Human Motion

Whenever employees are engaged in non-value-added motion, within the context of production, waste occurs. Very often, both managers and employees are unaware when this kind of wasteful activity occurs. And that's why a spaghetti diagram can be so useful.

This is a tool/technique used to identify and so eliminate the waste of unnecessary human motion. It involves, in the initial stage, a consultant's following an employee for between 30 minutes to two hours. In order for this to work properly, consultants have to explain to the employees, in order to obtain accurate data, exactly what is being done and why, making sure to emphasize that processes and layouts-not individual employees-are being evaluated. What happens is that that the work path taken by the employee(s) during this period is mapped out to determine efficiency and contribution to value-added activity.

Here, then, are the well defined steps in producing a spaghetti diagram to eliminate unnecessary human motion:

The date, the time(s), and the specific process being mapped must be noted.
The group should be informed about what is going on and a volunteer called for.
The actual work paths of this volunteer taken throughout his shift are traced out on the map.
Any stops are noted and sequentially numbered, as well as the time duration for each stop.
Anything involving over-reaching or "non-comfort" motion is noted.
Any inherent disruptions in the work path and flow should be especially noted.
The reason for trips must be recorded.

By means of this spaghetti diagram consultants can determine where motion is wasted and formulate a plan to eliminate that waste.

Non-value-added Conveyance of Product

The analytic tool used in a lean manufacturing implementation to find and eliminate the waste that results from the non-value-added conveyance of product is most often a "process walk." In this, the movement of a product is followed across all processes-from initial quality inspection through compounding through filling through all successive segments of the process to the final product ready for shipment. And here's what the process walk entails:

Literally walking at a brisk pace to follow the product through its production processes.
Asking questions of the people involved to find out origin of the part/ingredient, its next destination, and the means of conveyance.
Having employees assist in the observation of processes.
Recording delays for preparation and meeting requirements in moving the product from one location to the next.
Making a point to mark on the record material-handling delays.

With this tool consultants can locate waste and bottlenecks and propose Lean solutions to promote process efficiency. The right lean manufacturing consultants with the right analytic tools can make your lean manufacturing implementation a profitable success.