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Lean Manufacturing – Path to Success for SMEs

  • By faber
  • March 22, 2018

It is a much known fact that the market is evolving today and is more competitive than ever. This has forced manufacturers to find ways to reduce costs, eliminate wastes, improve services and provide quality products to the customers. This has also added an extra burden over the manufacturers to improve efficiency of the processes and improve productivity levels. These problems have almost haywire every other manufacturers production. But what if we tell you that there is a solution that can help one in tackling all these problems?

LEAN manufacturing processes can help the manufacturers all across the globe in achieving their targets and create a breakthrough in implementing and streamlining their strategies rather than opting for others. Although many organizations have often avoided integrating LEAN tools in their manufacturing processes which have led to birth of more complicated and intense problems. This can affect the entire process rundown of manufacturers and can have a drastic impact on the manufacturing processes and supply chain practices.

The only alternative for SMEs is to sequentially run the feasible practices from the house of LEAN management, which has proven results.

Consider holistic improvement

Before implementing LEAN tools and moving towards LEAN manufacturing, one should understand the fact that LEAN is a transformation journey and not a one-time event. Implementing LEAN practices comes with a lot of challenges of which employees fearing to adapt and embrace change is the biggest and the most chronic. Organizations need to address these challenges to create a better and more holistic operating environment for the employees as well as providing enough space to the LEAN tools to grow and produce results. Again, failure to run through these challenges and discrepant implementations may lead to inefficiencies, production delay and disruption in the flow.

Stability of the work environment

Improvements in the basic and fundamental structure of the processes ensure stability in the manufacturing where the strength of machines, continuous flow of material, short throughput time and exceptional quality ratio are the parameters that regulate the competitiveness of the organization as well as decide customer satisfaction. One has to get used to and respect the fact that it is all about customer and it is essential for the producer to comply with the demands about quality levels of the client.

Devise a systematic approach

It is very important for the organizations to map out an efficient implementation plan for Value Stream Mapping (VSM). The mapping should be done in a manner which improves the production processes by identifying the wastes and its sources. Moreover, the focus should be on improving the working and operating environment to minimize the defects occurring in the products due to impacted processes.

Identify and eliminate waste

It is a proven fact that LEAN manufacturing helps in identifying and reducing wastes and improve the efficiency of the processes involved in the manufacturing processes. The efficiency of the LEAN can itself be increased if the tools are optimized and implemented in a precise manner.

One should be open to the fact that every other industry and every other situation needs a different methodology and customized set of tools to be efficient in that particular working environment. Also, it is strongly recommended that organization irrespective of its status should adopt lean philosophy as an improvement strategy.

Demand should drive product flow

Like every concept, tools and processes, LEAN also has some basic and fundamental requirements. A regular demand driven product flow by introducing the cyclic schedules for improving production quality and supply-chain coordination is one of the key aspects of LEAN.

Supply chain is highly affected and altered by the inflow of raw materials along with manufacturing processes with their controls and finished goods. Implementing theses with proper measures increases the knowledge of the entire supply chain as well as the manufacturing processes along with the other relative processes.

Strategic Positioning of Inventory

Inventory and its management is one of the most important strata of manufacturing of any product on any scale. It decides the rate of the production and moreover, keeps the producer in check with the deadlines. It becomes a challenge for many organizations to maintain inventory at upstream levels. Concepts of producing to takt time (customer demand rate) and shortest throughput times (time to manufacture) are not mere concepts there but the real requirement.

Identification of obstacles

Identifying the obstacles and outlining the tackling strategies is key for the production processes and cost effective at the same time. One should make a rundown of the goals and instead of gulping advanced and higher goals, should start with the simple and achievable goals which will later act as the stepping stones for the higher ones. One should identify where the value is lost, identify their causes and rapidly act to fix them. They should always remember that improving the current situation and working for it is the key and should be on top of the priority list.

Address the Fear of Changing

As earlier mentioned, the fear of changing should be embraced in the organization. This is a very frustrating yet an important job since it relates to major aspects of production like time, cost, interest, and involvement. This could be overcome by integrating new methodologies and trends in the original system and using challenges as an opportunity to make LEAN a familiar concept in the organization and its processes.

The transformation framework

The framework for the entire transformation journey is a guide which steers the journey towards success. It is known by different names; some call it TPS (Toyota Production System), others WCM (World Class Manufacturing), some call it LEAN – all world-class organizations may have different nomenclature for the framework. But as it is said, ‘All roads lead to Rome.’ All systems lead to one destination of world-class performance.

Many organizations focus on costs and its efficiency when the real problems are borne most by waste or any process and its controls. These organizations have to bring a wholesome change and in their approach and should adapt to the changing trends of the modern yet contemporary industrial world.

Appropriate LEAN education, training, and hands on implementation can stimulate the awareness and technological development in all type of manufacturing industries. This will help industries to create awareness about LEAN managements tools and techniques, so as to be supportive for continual improvement, sustaining competitiveness and maintaining cost leadership yet with higher margins.

Written & Compiled by Faber Kishlay & Faber Mayuri