3 Ways to Go Lean in 2014

3 Ways to Go Lean in 2014

In our post last week about New Years Resolutions for manufacturers going into 2014, one of the resolutions we mentioned was going lean–as in lean manufacturing.

Lean manufacturing is great for a lot of reasons, but in terms of tangible benefits, many practitioners of lean manufacturing find themselves with decreased waste, greater profitability, increased productivity, and a greater number of on-time deliveries. Our own Rex Woods does a great job of explaining some of these benefits in a video interview we did with him for the blog.

No matter the benefits, for manufacturers who are not currently lean, getting into the groove and starting up lean practices can be pretty difficult.

To help you get started, here are 3 processes you should be familiar with if you’re hoping to go lean as we head into 2014, adapted from an article on Manufacturing.net:

  • Waste reduction: Waste reduction, which we mentioned in our New Years Resolutions post, is the overarching concept surrounding lean manufacturing; almost every (if not every) lean manufacturing practice is meant to reduce waste. As you work through your approach to lean in 2014, always keep waste reduction in mind. You can use traditional approaches (like we see below, or like Rex talks about in our video interview), or you can go through your business however you like, find waste, and cut it out. This is the end goal, so never lose sight of waste reduction.
  • Value stream mapping: Value stream mapping involves creating “a map showing the step-by-step process by which a product is manufactured, finished and shipped.” This helps identify, reduce, or eliminate tasks that don’t add any value–critical to reducing waste. If you’re not aware of exactly how your processes run (which can be easy as you get more involved in complex processes and product streams), you’ll never be able to identify what’s needed and what isn’t.
  • 5S: The 5S visual approach “focuses on providing clear visual cues to help identify and expedite processes.” You can see here for an in-depth breakdown of each step, but Manufacturing.net’s intro is good enough for a basic understanding: In line with each of the five S’s, we sort (remove unnecessary items from each work area); set in order (such as installing shadow boards to indicate where co-workers could place tools after use); shine (set preventive cleaning schedules); standardize (put certain key procedures in our ISO documentation); and sustain(assign specific areas for regular cleaning by certain personnel). 

Lean manufacturing already does a great job of helping manufacturers around the world become more efficient and profitable. D’Addario & Co., for example, manufactures strings for musical instruments like guitars. They were hit hard by the recession, but thanks to lean manufacturing, they’ve gotten back into the swing of things and started expanding back to (almost) normal levels.

No matter what specific sector of manufacturing you’re in, efficiency is key. And as you’ve probably guessed by now, lean is a key part of efficiency. So as we head into the new year with big goals for our companies in mind, let’s all make it an overarching goal to become more lean and efficient than ever. These processes detailed here are all good starts for companies looking to go lean.

Lean manufacturing may not be the golden ticket to success, but it certainly plays a very big part.

Photo credit: Manufacturing.net

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