Creating a Lean Manufacturing Environment
Several companies choose to implement the Toyota Production System. The Toyota Production System is a "customer-first" mentality. Within the Toyota Production System, each department is completely dependant upon the customer and making sure the customer is satisfied. In order to implement, you must first understand some of the basic concepts of lean manufacturing.
Lean manufacturing is focused on the elimination or reduction of waste and the improvement of the overall performance of a company. The philosophy behind lean manufacturing is often given credit to Toyota for their development of the Toyota Production System. Toyota focuses on reducing wastes in order to improve the overall customer satisfaction level. The Toyota Production System believes there are 7 wastes in the workplace that can be reduced or eliminated in order to improve the overall performance of a company.
There are several different approaches to lean manufacturing including 5S, Kanban, visual control, and production flow. Toyota defines waste as being three-form, muri (overburden), mura (inconsistency), and muda (eliminate waste). Muri or overburden is considered to be all the unreasonable work that management assigns upon workers and machines due to poor organization. Some examples of muri are carrying heavy weights, dangerous tasks (behavior-based safety issues), and working at a significantly faster than normal pace. Muri defines this work as pushing a person or machine to a pace beyond their normal limits. Muri is associated with the preparation or planning phase of the production process.
Mura or inconsistency focuses on the implementation and elimination of fluctuation of scheduling. This usually falls to the operations level to schedule the quality and volume of the production process. Finally, muda or waste elimination is dealt with after the process is completed. Management oversees muda and should consider how to eliminate the deeper causes of muda formed in muri and mura. Once the causes are determined, management will then use them in the next project and slowly begin eliminating all waste together.
The other popular process is called production flow. Production flow is often call mass production, repetitive flow production, or series production. Production flow uses production lines to continually move large amount of items through the production process. Each product will have the same amount of time dedicated to it on the production line in order to keep the process moving smoothly. This also means that once one product has been produced, the next product must begin production immediately following the completed one.
The lean manufacturing process and the Toyota Production System believe in achieving the same goal, the elimination or reduction of waste. So how do you go about creating a lean manufacturing environment?
Many companies seek outside help when they are implementing lean manufacturing. While this is a great strategy, a consultant cannot help you if your staff doesn't accept and use the concept. The entire organization must share problems and work together to find a solution. Too often, employees use visual control and assume that they have done their part. Well, if the visual control is hard to understand or complex, you have failed. The tools you use in lean manufacturing are important to the overall method. The 5S approach and heijunka are both popular ways of getting your entire staff to think "lean".
The 5 "s" approach to lean manufacturing derives from five Japanese words that begin with `s'. The 5 "s" approach was created to simplify your work environment, reduce waste and improve safety, quality, and efficiency. The five words are: Sort (Seiri), Set in Order (Seiton), Shine (Seiso), Standardize (Seiketsu), and Sustain (Shitsuke). Let's begin with Sort (Seiri).
Several large companies have implemented the 5S's. It has been adopted into several companies in the hope to improve the overall performance and productivity of the business. Some notable companies include; Hewlett-Packard Support Center, Boise Cascade and Boeing. Some of the results these companies achieved are as follows:
Quite often the 5S's have been implemented with the Toyota Production System, or "Just in Time" manufacturing. Originally lean manufacturing was called "just in time". This changed to the term lean manufacturing and it is now called TPS. Many credit Toyota for having a human touch to their automation process. They are given this credit because their production machines have enough intelligence to recognize when they are working abnormally and they have a system that flags themselves for needing human attention. This means that humans only have to focus on the abnormal, fault, or conditions versus the normal production. It removes the day-to-day routine element that causes disinterest in many humans, therefore causing defects to occur.
The kaizen method is one of the best ways to create a lean manufacturing environment. In the kaizen method, management is in charge of maintenance and improvement within the company. Maintenance is about maintaining the current managerial, technological, and operating standards. Improvement focuses on improving the current standards. With kaizen thinking, the maintenance function will establish a set of rules, policies, directives, and standard operating procedures. From here, management must make everyone work at following the standard operating procedures. Typically this assignment is given to human resources to develop a letter that will site discipline for failure to adhere to the standard operating procedures. As far as improvement goes, management will always towards revising the current standards and establishing better ones. Kaizen uses small improvements over a specific period of time and result in coordinated continuous efforts by every employee at the company.
Heijunka is another Japanese term that "refers to a system of production smoothing designed to achieve a more even and consistent flow of work." Heijunka is designed to level the production volume and to level the production by product type. Toyota's view of production smoothing is that production systems vary in the muri and mura and the capacity of a machine is forced in some time periods. Muri or overburden is considered to be all the unreasonable work that management assigns upon workers and machines due to poor organization. Some examples of muri are carrying heavy weights, dangerous tasks (behavior-based safety issues), and working at a significantly faster than normal pace. Muri defines this work as pushing a person or machine to a pace beyond their normal limits. Muri is associated with the preparation or planning phase of the production process. Mura or inconsistency focuses on the implementation and elimination of fluctuation of scheduling. This usually falls to the operations level to schedule the quality and volume of the production process.
Leveling the production by product type is a little different. Most companies produce a mix of products and the quantities of specific products is uneven. Again, the solution Toyota used was to reduce the time and cost of the production changeovers so that smaller batches of products were produced and the lost production time was minimal. This leveled out the demand for certain components and reduced the total inventory that was not used. Toyota uses a heijunka box to achieve the heijunka style efficiencies; this is basically a visual scheduling board that shows the different demand levels for certain products.
Implementing heijunka helped Toyota reduce vehicle production time and inventory. Toyota is known for creating lean manufacturing or the Toyota Production System, as they call it. Several successful companies have looked to their approach to reduce excess waste at their organization and increase overall productivity.
Your managers need to be taught that they need to support their staff members if lean manufacturing is going to succeed. If your managers are telling them how to do their jobs and not supporting them, the motivation of an employee will decline. Management needs to take time to walk the shop floors and see how they can help their employees do their jobs and support them as their employees learn to implement lean manufacturing.
The most common roadblock in lean manufacturing is the management, mostly senior level managers who fail to properly implement and follow through with lean manufacturing. Lean manufacturing needs to be a total commitment from the entire organization and should be a day-to-day process, not just a new approach to business processes that can be practiced at your convenience.
Mangers often try to implement individual elements of lean manufacturing instead of the entire process. Be sure you understand that lean manufacturing is not just a small step, it is a bigger process that involves every department within your company and needs to be adopted by everyone, with every step, not just one step.