What is Lean? Lean manufacturing, is a manufacturing method based on Toyota’s 1930 manufacturing model “The Toyota Production System”. The basic idea of the system is, “Slashing costs at the labour level while increasing production is the only way to achieve consistent and lasting improvements in the quality and profitability.” Toyota did not invent the Lean Manufacturing system. It was inspired by a World War II Toyota worker who developed the lean manufacturing philosophy after working in the company’s production line.
Lean Manufacturing focuses on improving the flow of information and the data so that making the right decisions is possible at all phases of the manufacturing process. Lean focuses on eliminating waste or unwanted materials, reducing inventory waste and improving productivity by eliminating inefficiencies in the production process and improving the control of quality processes. Lean also works towards better control of the flow of data through all phases of the manufacturing operation. These improvements in process improvement result in more efficient use of resources and reduced cost and waste.
Toyota adopted two lean principles from The Association for Competitive Chemistry (ACC): first is called the “flexible execution” and second is called the “value stream mapping”. The flexibly implemented strategy is a system of planning, organizing and deploying the tools, products and techniques in such a way that value is added progressively to the production process. It is designed to ensure that raw materials, end products and final products are bought when they are needed rather than when they are available. In value-streamstream mapping, Toyota has applied these principles to their manufacturing philosophy. This involves creating a map from the inputs of a stage of production to its end product or the final delivered product. The flow of data will be used to prioritize and direct resources to those areas that need improvement.
Toyota’s Value Stream map (VSM) is based on the VDT principle. VSM is an action strategy used by Toyota that enables a company to eliminate waste either by speeding up or eliminating slack in the manufacturing process. Toyota has also implemented the Lean Flow management system. The Lean Flow management system concentrates on eliminating the root cause of waste and thus enables the company to improve efficiency at all levels – production, warehouse, shop floor and customer service. The aim of the Lean Flow management system is to enable the organization to become more customer focused.
Toyota used the VSM approach in manufacturing to reduce costs and improve quality. The VSM maps a production process step by step to identify and reduce the potential causes for variability. The main areas targeted by the VSM for Lean initiatives are unplanned stop-overs, exceeding capacity, exceeding cost control, operator error and inter-production variability. Lean principles on reducing non-value-added activities are also part of the VSM. When Lean principles are properly implemented in a manufacturing company, there is no room for inefficiencies and hence maximum productivity is achieved.
There are numerous tools and techniques that make up the Lean Flow management approach. Some of these include the Payable Incentives, where you offer some perks or incentives to employees who work towards reaching the targets set by you, without expecting anything in return, instead the rewards only serve as an incentive to them. Another is the Flexible Incentives where you can allow a certain amount of payroll deductions every month to employees who meet specific targets, and also there are instances when you will give bonuses to those employees who adopt the right practices like, decreasing their drop off rate. Another is the Performance Rewards where you reward people who have good customer service skills. These employee relations develop into positive relationships with customers, wherein they would be more willing to buy your product.
There are various consultants who help companies in Implementing the Lean Manufacturing principles in their workplace. There are consultants who can guide you in creating an action plan, setting specific goals and tracking those goals. Lean consultants also help in creating training programs for the employees so that productivity and levels of satisfaction with the work are consistently improved. These training programs include methods in reducing wastes, eliminating non-value-added expenses, improving customer relations and increasing company profitability. Lean consultants not only help in aligning your company’s vision and mission but also in achieving your business goals by reducing waste, implementing quality management principles, improving communication, rewarding performance, and identifying opportunities for improvement.
A good Lean factory has one or more dedicated Lean manufacturing consultants who implement the Lean principles on a continuous basis. These consultants first understand your business, its needs, your industry and its requirements. After this, they draw out plans that suit the specific requirements of your manufacturing process, your resources, and the current state of your inventory. The consultants help you streamline your entire process, making sure that you improve all aspects of your business operations while at the same time reducing waste, improving customer satisfaction, eliminating non-value-added expenses, increasing company profitability, and maximizing your value stream.