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May 27, 2011

World Class Manufacturing

World Class Manufacturing is a very different set of ideas, principles, thoughts, policies and techniques for operating and managing a manufacturing company. World Class Manufacturing concepts were developed as the United States influenced the resurrection of Japanese manufacturing industries after World War II. It adopts many of the innovative ideas that were developed and used by the Japanese electronics, automotive, and steel companies to increase their competitive edge. Primarily, it focuses on using the concept of “kaizen” to improve cost, quality, lead time, customer service and manufacturing flexibility.

World Class Manufacturing is a process approach which typically includes these techniques and philosophies; Quick Changeovers (SMED), Statistical Process Control (SPC), Just in Time (JIT), Visual Management, Streamlined Flow, Small lot sizes, Cross Functional Teams, Employee Empowerment, Part Families, Reducing Process Variation, Cellular Manufacturing, Zero Defects, and Total Preventive Maintenance (TPM).

Companies taking part in World Class Manufacturing strategies tend to focus on improving their operations, and to attempt to eliminate waste to create a lean business system. This approach results in higher productivity and better profits. However, these businesses will also focus on increasing the velocity of their total order volume to improve delivery without relying of excessive or increasing inventory levels. Sequential methods of performing work are being replaced with synchronized manufacturing methods to speed up the operations to compress time, and hierarchical departmentalized functions are being replaced by self directed work teams.

World Class Manufacturing is a process focused approach using teams to improve all the manufacturing operations. World Class Manufacturing techniques contradict many of the traditional manufacturing concepts, which were developed during the industrial revolution. The implementation of world class techniques will often bring up resistance to change with management and employees. Resistance to change is often supported by the statement "we've always done it this way". The most resistance is often found in the lower and middle management levels. A process for change has to be implemented with the full participation of management and employees working together.

Capital investment is another huge issue for management teams. World Class Manufacturing has the approach of “use creativity before capital". However, sometimes improvements can be financially justified. This would be true, especially when improved methods require an organization to purchase new technology or equipment to achieve quick changeovers, more efficient cycle times, and give more flexibility in their operations. Executives will often choose to take the option to save on costs but this can be short sighted. They will become equally frustrated with the less than desirable outcome as a consequence of not financially supporting the improvements.

Like everything else, World Class Manufacturing is not a universal remedy or silver bullet, nor should it be. It is an operational approach that, if used correctly, it will provide new insights and allows a business to become more competitive in global markets. It is the ideal system to quickly design and develop new, higher quality products at lower costs, as well as delivering them with shorter lead times and better manufacturing processes.