Run Smarter – Lean Manufacturing to Ensure Profitability and SustainabilityMay 12, 2015
There’s a lot to think about in regard to your manufacturing processes. From your shop floor to your top floor, lean manufacturing helps you to better understand and simplify those processes to ensure you’re getting the most out of your production resources.
Arguably, lean is now an essential tool for manufacturing-based companies. With global competition, as well as intense pressure from material cost increases, capacity constraints and skilled labor shortages, lean represents one way manufacturers can ease those pressures and return lost profit to the bottom line.
Lean manufacturing works by focusing on the whole system, rather than the individual components. With manufacturing equipment, for example, it means monitoring, collecting and analyzing data across the entire operation as well as on a machine-by-machine basis.
The first step in moving toward a lean manufacturing process is identifying your operational objectives.
Your investment in lean initiatives will depend on your ambition. Small goals can often be achieved with minimal effort. For example, aiming to decrease Not In-Cycle Process Time (NICPT) by 5% might be achieved through small adjustments to specific machines or processes.
To achieve more ambitious goals – for example, decreasing NICPT by 40% – you’ll need to evaluate your entire process, system and workforce. While this type of effort generally requires a greater investment, it will typically uncover other areas of opportunity for increased efficiency and productivity (far beyond the intended 40%).
For example, perhaps there were operational issues that weren’t visible because your current monitoring process doesn’t offer a trend report or provides data that isn’t easy to analyze.
Once you’ve set appropriate goals for your manufacturing production, you need not only the right tools but also an understanding how they help your bottom line.
Understand Your Equipment
Each machine in your manufacturing process was precisely designed and built, but to perform with reliability, precision, and durability, it must also be properly configured and programmed.
If your machines are not properly configured or programmed, you run the risk of delays, downtime, or even safety issues on your floor. This decreased performance will set your operational efficiency behind schedule and will result in lower ROI on each machine.
By monitoring the performance of your entire shop floor, with data gathered from all of the machines in your production process, you’ll gain insight into which machines are underperforming, and to what extent. In some cases, these performance issues may be due to the fact that they were not properly configured or programmed.
Once you have identified the cause of poor machine performance, you’ll be able to quickly identify appropriate solutions and continue working toward the operational goals you’ve set for your facility.
Properly Train Your Employees
While it’s important for you understand your equipment, it’s critical that the key individuals who manage and monitor its operation understand it as well.
Arguably, these individuals are the most important people when it comes to ensuring operational efficiency and sustainability.
Plant Operation Managers oversee daily operations, including manufacturing and production, maintenance, safety, engineering support, and more; which makes appropriate training crucial.
Plant Operation Managers that are trained to leverage manufacturing metrics – especially those generated in real time are better able to identify poor machine performance quickly and implement solutions to resolve those issues. The faster issues are discovered, the faster they can be remedied.
While there are many benefits to employee training at any level, making the decision to offer one or two training opportunities per year can pay significant efficiency dividends. A frequent and consistent pattern of training also lets your team know that you’re serious about your business as well as helping them succeed in their career path.
Learn More About Lean
When making the decision to transform your current manufacturing operation to one that is lean and efficient, ensure you’re taking the necessary steps outlined above.
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