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Jul 25, 2011

Manufacturing Sustaining Lean

The methods of lean manufacturing have been achieving incredible success rates for over 40 years. The first success stories came from the factories in Japan and then advanced to the factories all over North America.

These methods have proven to be a flexible and cost effective way to achieve customer satisfaction. However, there many factories that still perform and look much the same as they did years ago. The reason for this is that sustaining the transition to lean manufacturing can be very difficult.

It’s absolutely necessary to completely commit to the lean concept. Management must commit to the lean efforts continuously and must marry itself to the concepts of 5S concepts and learn to regularly make the required difficult choices.

Many manufacturers consider that their problems are over once they successfully implement lean in some part of their factory that is having problems. The fact is that this is when management needs to learn and apply elsewhere to multiply their successes.

In many factories, boards have been mounted and are displayed on the shop floor to depict their 5S safety and health information and production output. This saves resources and time because graphs, charts, and signs are much more understandable since they are visual, than long computer generated emails and reports.

Also, in order to improve the output and efficiency of their employees, many factories synchronize the flow between their workstations and machines with the workstations and machines that have been repositioned in addition adding a single line of work flow, controlling its processes, and organizing the factory for visual monitoring.

Although there still may be other work to be done, many factories commit to going all the way. Some of these factories have enjoyed a reduction of direct labors by as much as 25% and a 50% reduction of inventory.

To ensure that the employees’ take effect, management should include measurements in the visual sense so that people can gauge how well they’re doing. This puts all the information directly in front of them, without any secrets. If management doesn’t do this, employees will people will simply naturally slide back into their old ways of doing things. Factories that are successful conduct audits regularly to prevent this from happening.

Everybody must make a commitment to lean manufacturing, and those employees who don’t may not survive the transition to lean. This should be expected because those employees are actually part of the problem.

It isn’t management’s fault if an employee resists lean if he/she believes he/she is going to lose his/her job. Lean is not a reason to reduce the workforce.

Lean management needs to understand that they are making an investment. Nobody is trying de motivate the workforce by laying employees off. The concept is to rapidly increase sales and take advantage of the factory’s new lean approach. If an employee becomes unneeded in one area of the workplace, that employees should be moved to another workplace where they will have a positive impact. Lean management should reward their employees for making a contribution to the success of the factory.

Continuously improving and sustaining lean manufacturing is something that any factory can do. Lean management need to keep their employees willing to embrace lean continuously. They should continue to set and achieve lean goals for their employees and encourage them to participate in the success.