In this article we will outline some of the quickest lean manufacturing actions that will help you achieve greater efficiency. These include engaging your people, eliminating waste, and selecting a key area for the initial implementation of Lean foundation practices.
Engage Your People For Lean
Business owners love Lean because it delivers higher output and better quality at lower cost. But why should front line operators care about Lean?
First, let’s go back a few steps – why should a business even care if front line operators care about Lean? That’s because Lean tools have been developed to address problems that companies all over the world experience, and it has been found that to gain real traction the support of front line operators is crucial. More than that – front line operators are both the source of and implementers of most Lean improvements, so they must absolutely be engaged with the Lean process.
This starts with communication and education. Lean is not about driving people or machines harder and faster, instead it is about removing all the waste that gets in the way of people doing productive work. (Don’t focus on the muscle, focus on the fat – that’s why it’s called Lean!)
Here is your first action: Go and ask your front line operators what makes a good day at work. The exact words will vary, but I am confident that it will be some variation of “get stuck in, make good progress, and leave knowing we had a good day”. People who make the effort to turn up at work want to produce results and be proud of what they achieve each day.
By focusing on the elimination of waste, it allows front line operators to do less but produce more. Lean tools solve problems they have tolerated for a long time, give them the tools to implement further improvements, and let them leave knowing they have had a good day.
Therefore, one of the quickest and simplest Lean manufacturing actions for greater efficiency is to educate yourself about Lean enough so that you are able to engage with your people, communicate Lean thinking and practices, and have them as excited about implementing Lean as you are.
As mentioned above, Lean is about removing all the waste that gets in the way of people doing productive work. Building on this, a fundamental Lean principle is that we should eliminate waste, not cope with or minimise it. Many practices in manufacturing companies are aimed and coping with or minimising waste – think about practices like:
- Scheduling and batch sizes to cope with and minimise the impact of setups and changeovers,
- Making sure there are plenty of jobs in progress to minimise the impact of problems and breakdowns, and
- Pushing our customers toward longer lead times and firm orders to minimise the impact of changing requirements.
Many companies consider that the basis of their success is their skill in minimising and coping with these kinds of issues, and outperform their competitors because of that skill.
Consider instead a company that completely eliminated all these wastes. Not only would they enjoy a 100% productivity gain each time a waste was eliminated, but they would also be able to produce whatever the customer wanted, when they wanted it, at the lowest cost and highest quality. They would be the ultimate Lean organisation!
Due to our skill in minimising and coping with waste, we have often become very well trained in not seeing waste. A quick and simple way to overcome this is to conduct a Waste Hunt.
A Waste Hunt is based on the 8 Lean wastes and the DOWNTIME mnemonic. For a brief introduction to each of the 8 Lean Wastes, a good starting point is this article at the Process Excellence Network.
Briefly, Lean defines 8 wastes and names them as follows:
Not Using Talent
Excessive or Inappropriate Processing
A Waste Hunt involves understanding each of the wastes from a Lean viewpoint, and then directly observing production to identify where those wastes are occurring in your process. Once you begin to see them, it will quickly become apparent to you that there is a massive opportunity for improvement. If done well, you will be filled with energy to start fixing the unbelievable amount of waste you have observed!
Often, once the wastes are identified the solution can be straightforward to implement. The reasons they have not been fixed earlier may include (but are not limited to):
- The waste could not be identified because we didn’t have the understanding and a useful label, such as the 8 Lean wastes,
- The waste was tolerated because “that’s how it’s done”,
- The waste was not considered significant enough to elevate to management, and
- Our job description is to make product, not improve the process.
A Waste Hunt can definitely be a quick and simple Lean manufacturing action for greater efficiency!
Lean Foundation Practices
Once you have engaged your people, conducted Waste Hunts and implemented improvements, next steps would include initial steps toward implementing key Lean foundation practices. These include:
- 5S Housekeeping and Organisation,
- Standard Work,
- Visual Performance Management,
- Focused Improvement, and
- Team Work.
In the initial stages of your Lean Journey, it is best to select a key process or area to apply these tools, to quickly improve efficiency. Later, the learning from this pilot program can be used for wider implementation.
5S Housekeeping and Organisation
Lean tools have been developed to address problems that companies all over the world experience, and tidiness in the workplace is definitely a common issue. A Waste Hunt may identify much waste of Motion in searching for tools, waste of Excessive or Inappropriate Processing by working in a cluttered area, or even Defects caused by using the wrong tool or working in the wrong way.
The 5 S’s are Sort, Set in Order, Shine, Standardise and Sustain, and are a well documented method for maintaining workplace tidiness, addressing waste, implementing improvements, improving quality and improving productivity.
There are many resources available to support your 5S activities – contact us if you would like to know more!
Variability in quantity and quality are an ongoing concern for anyone who manages a process. Supervisors and managers must juggle current workload and work mix with available people, equipment and training levels.
It is often considered that the variability arises from fundamental differences between people – strength, stamina, innate ability, and so on. However, most of the variability actually comes from the expectations of the people doing the work, choice of method to do the work, and the setup, layout or arrangement of the work area. This is where Standard Work applies, and can be a quick and effective method toward greater efficiency.
There are three elements to achieving consistent results:
- Standard sequence,
- standard method,
- standard cycle time.
If we can take the best from each operator and capture in good Standard Work documents and practices, then consistently high output (both quality and volume) will result.
Examples for highly repetitive work include the Standardised Work Combination Table and Standardised Work Chart, while for less frequently repeated work the Standardised Work Job Instruction Sheet is often the best tool.
Visual Performance Management
You care about performance and output, so you track results. Why not have the people doing the work track results also?
As mentioned in the introductory section on engagement, people want to “get stuck in” and know whether they’ve had a good day or not. They care about performance and output too.
Often, performance measurement is difficult due the variability from day to day, but also sensitive due to the variability between people. However, if 5S and Standard Work have been successful, all properly trained people would be able to reliably work at the standard rate – addressing both the variability and the sensitivity.
One example of this can be the Standard Work Production Analysis Board, which not only tracks planned versus actual, but also meets the goal of team members doing their own processing, and provides an opportunity for the next foundation practice, Focused Improvement.
Focused Improvement is a Lean practice which includes the skills and systems that:
- Identify and record the largest causes of waste and lost productivity,
- Select the most important issues for attention,
- Allow time to fix issues rather than patch them, and
- Gather and analyse data to diagnose root causes, design solutions and demonstrate elimination.
By taking the information from the Standard Work Production Analysis Board implemented in Visual Performance Management, you will be able to select and address the largest wastes. Elimination of these wastes will lead to greater efficiency.
Successfully implement each of the previous Lean practices relied on working along with the people doing the work. Now is the time to really build on that engagement and ensure that designing and implementing solutions is not top-down, or delegated to specific individuals. Instead, Lean thinking recommends a team based approach. For example, team members may be tasked with gathering data, brainstorming, presenting proposals back to their team, designing and finally implementing solutions.
This builds the capability of the person and the team, and works on addressing the Lean waste of Not Using Talent.
In this article we have covered some of the quickest lean manufacturing actions that will help you achieve greater efficiency. These included engaging your people, eliminating waste, and selecting a key area for the initial implementation of Lean foundation practices such as 5S Housekeeping and Organisation, Standard Work, Visual Performance Management, Focused Improvement, and Team Work.
As always, there is much assistance available if these tools are of interest you. Contact us to discuss your next manufacturing efficiency improvements.