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Lean manufacturing is being utilized by businesses of all sizes today. Although it took a few years to become mainstream, the success stories from mid-size to large corporations have pushed lean manufacturing down to very small organizations.
Most of the large corporations employ a few lean experts. Many mid-size and most small businesses do not have lean manufacturing expertise in the company. It is common that a few individuals have attended a lean manufacturing seminar or read a few books, but lack the expertise to develop a road map.
The reason most courses and seminars do not teach a “road map” is because the tools are best applied to problems or bottlenecks, rather than forcing the tool use on the opportunity. For example, a machine that sets up once per week in 30 minutes probably doesn't warrant a week of single minute exchange of dies (SMED) activity.
However, a road map can be used with common sense. Lean manufacturing has been called “common-sense manufacturing”, although not always “common practice”.
Here are 20 steps that comprise a lean manufacturing road map:
The specific implementation plan should be developed from the facility analysis. The analysis identifies areas of opportunity in every area of the business, including sales, service, engineering, maintenance, production, quality, shipping and administrative functions.
Some lean manufacturing projects within a lean initiative require the tools of Six Sigma to find the improvement answers. The lean manufacturing team needs to be trained to understand when the lean tools must be supplemented to either solve the problem or maximize the improvement.
Kaizen events may use all of the lean tools (and some Six Sigma tools) to meet the team's objective. Kaizen events are conducted on an ongoing basis to achieve a state of “lean”. For example, a process may need a quick throughput improvement. The kaizen blitz could include focused SMED and OEE analysis. The kaizen might have an objective to reduce setup time from 80 minutes to 60 minutes in four days.
It is important to keep an enterprise view with the analysis and road map. No single operation should be improved at the expense of the entire system. For example, if a bottleneck is happening at Process B, improving Process A prior to B only hurts the system worse. A larger-scale example is improving throughput if shipping cannot handle the volume. Although many improvements cause bottlenecks elsewhere, forcing a larger known problem is rarely a good idea.
The road map above is only one example. It could be shown with many different variations. However, there is a logical sequence to many of the tools. Value stream mapping is almost always conducted very early on in the process. The 5-S system provides a foundation for most other tools. TPM is large and plays an important role in OEE improvement and, therefore, must be started early.
The key is to have a plan and get started. The path to lean will not be straight and it never ends. Don't let the pursuit of perfection get in the way of being “better” today.