Pioneered by the likes of Eli Whitney and Henry Ford, perfected by auto industry leader Toyota, and applied across myriad industries, lean manufacturing means “manufacturing without waste” – from the Japanese term “muda.”

While specific methods for implementing lean manufacturing vary from industry to industry and even factory to factory, there are basic core principles that can benefit every operation striving to add value, improve process flow, eliminate waste, and meet customer demand.

Just in Time – Over Time
Also known as just-in-time production, lean manufacturing dates back to the turn of the 19th century, when Eli Whitney – best known for inventing the cotton gin –perfected interchangeable machine parts. A century later, industrial engineers began looking at individual workers and work methods, resulting in time study, motion study and process charting methodologies.

In 1910, Henry Ford created the first comprehensive manufacturing strategy, taking all the key elements – people, machines, tooling and product – and introducing the assembly line, as he made the historic Model T automobile.

Japanese industrialists recognized the value of American manufacturing developments and fine-tuned them, with an emphasis on the central role of inventory and the power of the worker to contribute in areas including quality control. From this global and historical perspective, lean manufacturing emerged.

“Pull” Into the Supermarket
At the heart of the “supermarket concept” of lean manufacturing is the kanban system of materials planning, first developed by Toyota. Its basic elements include:

  • Work centers using a card (or electronic system) when they need to withdraw components from operations or supply bins. Kanban means “visible record” in Japanese.
  • Kanban is a proven concept in reducing inventory, eliminating stockout, cutting overhead costs, and enhancing quality and customer service.
  • Kanban scheduling operates like a supermarket. The smallest needed supply of every item sits in a dedicated location with a fixed space allocation. Customers, aka workers, come to the store and select items. A signal then goes to the supermarket’s regional warehouse detailing which items have been “sold” and the warehouse prepares a daily replenishment.
  • Kanban systems eliminate waste. A common analogy to define kanban is that of the bakery truck, which follows a fixed route and at each step, examines stock and replenishes it – but only as needed. No more and no less. So, nothing goes to waste.

Waste Not
In lean manufacturing, there are seven “deadly wastes.” By eliminating them from your daily operations, you take a major step toward achieving your business goals.

Productivity-killing forms of “muda” include:

  • Defects
  • Waiting  for an upstream process to deliver
  • Unnecessary motion of employees. This includes such delays as employees being away from their work due to absenteeism or excessive break times.
  • Inventory awaiting further processing or consumption
  • Processing delays
  • Unnecessary transportation and/or goods handling
  • Overproduction of things not demanded or needed by the customer

Your customer may like you just fine, but he doesn’t really care about the reasons why waste or inefficiencies occur at your factory. At the end of the day, he needs you to deliver the right product, at the right price and at the right time. That’s the basis of your success.

To learn more about building your lean work force and ultimately, your HR and business goals, contact the team at Premium Staffing. We can partner with you to make your operations lean – and successful!

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