How To Implement Lean Manufacturing In Your Facility

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implement lean manufacturing

If you are in the manufacturing business, then it’s likely you’ve come across the term lean manufacturing. Lean manufacturing is a concept that helps to boost productivity in manufacturing facilities while also reducing spend and increasing profits.

The whole idea centers around waste and decreasing how much resources, time, and energy your current manufacturing process is wasting. Not only is this great for your company, but also great for the environment as well.

Transitioning to a lean manufacturing system in your facility doesn’t happen overnight and requires a united approach on all fronts. You need your employees and all management staff to be on board so you can all work together in implementing new practices and procedures effectively. Bringing in experts who have formal training in lean manufacturing will help you streamline the process, making it less intensive and time-consuming.

It can be hard to let go of your traditional manufacturing procedures, but this system is proven to be effective worldwide. Here are some guidelines and steps to follow when moving your manufacturing company to a leaner manufacturing model.

1. Value Stream Mapping

Value stream mapping or VSM is a lean manufacturing tool that was initially created by the Toyota Motor Company. It uses a flowchart that lays out every step in the manufacturing process to see the whole thing in one, easy to read the document. It helps manufacturers plan and implement lean manufacturing and is the best place to start when setting up a lean manufacturing facility yourself.

You can click here to learn how. It starts at order entry and details the whole production of the product until delivery. It will allow you to see where you’re employing nonessential activities within your facility and areas of waste. It is called value stream because the focus is on adding value to your product without increasing the waste of money spent.

Once you’ve identified areas where you can cut back waste, you can start to plan out how you will implement those changes.

2. Educate Your Staff

The second step, before implementing any changes, is to educate your staff on lean manufacturing. It will likely be an entirely new concept to them, and you need to provide some training on what they can expect. Instead of just throwing them in the deep end, it’s best to take an informative approach, showing your employees you respect them enough to let them know what you’re planning.

Everyone needs to be on board to implement this transition successfully, and all staff should understand how the new system will benefit everyone. Of course, the best way to learn anything is by doing, so once you feel that your employees have an understanding, you can move right to the next step.

3. Start A Pilot Project

The best way to begin the implementation process is with a pilot project. Instead of transitioning the entire facility over to a lean manufacturing model at one time, you can start with one line, which will allow you to trial is, and serve as an example for all your management and staff.

Choose one product line to swap over and implement the entire lean system of tools and practices. Begin with the raw materials that you order for this product, and end with the completed goods. Management should refocus their attention on this pilot line to ensure they feel 100% comfortable with the new processes. You can have staff come and work on this line to observe the model until they feel ready for the next stage.

4. Host A Value Stream Mapping Workshop

Once you’ve run the pilot project and all your employees have had a chance to observe how it works, host a follow-up value stream mapping workshop. In this workshop, you can compare the old value stream map to the new one and directly compare the differences. Your team will see how much the traditional system is wasting, both materials and their own time and energy.

They will welcome the opportunity to work more productively in the new system and not waste so much time doing irrelevant things. Employees want to feel like the work they do has value and that it has importance. Not that they are just going through the motions for the sake of it. Moving to lean manufacturing will give them that opportunity.

5. Use A Kaizen Workshop To Begin The Implementation Process

Kaizen is Japanese for “change for the better.” Where manufacturing is concerned, a kaizen workshop is a way to make considerable, rapid changes in the way processes work. You can implement changes in one week, which would normally take months to implement. A typical kaizen will last for five days, where your team will identify areas of waste and implement the necessary improvements to processes.

You’ll want all the leading players in your manufacturing facility to attend the kaizen and give them tons of support through the process. Instead of having multiple meetings and workshops over a long period and slowly implementing changes, a kaizen happens rapidly. At the end of the week, your team should be ready to transition to the new operating system.

6. Make It Mandatory

One of the critical mistakes that manufacturers make when moving to lean manufacturing is making it voluntary or deciding to do a little bit at a time. Not implementing changes will always be easier than implementing changes since many employees are resistant to change.

If it’s not mandatory, then it will never get done. It has to be non-negotiable, and everyone in the facility has to be on board and ready to make the change cohesively. If you follow all the above steps, then everyone involved should understand the benefits and be ready and willing to start the implementation process right away.

7. Identify Opportunities For The Financial Impact

The numbers don’t lie, and when you’re implementing lean manufacturing practices, you want to start with ones that have the most significant financial impact. Being able to either save a substantial amount of money or make a considerable amount will give everyone more faith in the new system.

Once people see value in it, they are more likely to be on board with the recent changes. When you did the value stream mapping earlier, you may have identified huge amounts of raw material waste, which could be setting you back thousands of dollars. Through the value stream map, you can see the opportunity to save the company a lot of money by merely reducing the number of raw materials they waste.

It’s a visible improvement that even staff on the floor will see, as they no longer have to look at shelves full of materials gathering dust. The facility will look more organized and have more space for storage that it never had before. These are the kind of opportunities that you need to take advantage of during the beginning stages of implementing lean manufacturing.

8. Hire Lean Manufacturing Experts

The system will be new for everyone on your manufacturing team, including management. The best way for your facility to experience success is to have someone on board who knows the system in and out.

A professional with a Master of Science in Lean Manufacturing can come in and pick out areas of waste without even thinking. They can help implement more effective and efficient practices that will change the facility’s functions for the better. Since it’s their career, they thoroughly understand and believe in the system and will help to drive a total transformation.

They can provide technical assistance as needed, serve as the facilitator of the transition, and produce quick results. If you have someone leading who doesn’t know what they are talking about, the rest of the staff will quickly lose trust and not feel motivated to go along with any changes.

Your lean manufacturing experts can educate others, at every level of the organization, on the system’s short and long-term benefits and help produce real, tangible results.

Conclusion

Once you’ve implemented lean manufacturing in your facility, you will have the opportunity to begin facilitating real change in the organization. You will free up time and resources to spend on further product development or new and innovative products. You can shift more focus into quality control, ensuring that all your products are of the highest spec, which will boost customer satisfaction.

Lean manufacturing will make your manufacturing facility safer, keeping things clean and organized, reducing workplace hazards. One of the biggest reasons manufacturers want to pursue lean manufacturing is to save money on expenses and boost productivity and profit.

The benefits of implementing a leaner manufacturing system are innumerable. There may be resistance to the changes, but you can help them see all these benefits with education. Change is necessary for manufacturing facilities to stay competitive as the markets continue to grow. Being able to produce goods while reducing production costs and waste efficiently is essential for industry success.