Get lean, eliminate waste

Throw technology at old manufacturing processes and procedures, and you still can get a train wreck; it just happens faster. Infuse lean manufacturing techniques into the hearts and minds of those involved with plant processes, and your technological dollars will go a lot farther. The difference is like comparing the clunky "Warning Will Robinson" Lost in Space robot to the deftness imagined ...

07/01/2004


Throw technology at old manufacturing processes and procedures, and you still can get a train wreck; it just happens faster. Infuse lean manufacturing techniques into the hearts and minds of those involved with plant processes, and your technological dollars will go a lot farther. The difference is like comparing the clunky 'Warning Will Robinson' Lost in Space robot to the deftness imagined in I, Robot .

'The biggest obstacle is what's in peoples' heads,' maintains Pascal Dennis, co-owner of Lean Productivity Systems, an educational firm teaching rapid business improvement. Dennis, along with his partner Erik Hager, conducted sessions at Quality Expo in Novi, MI, in June. Their 'Lean Production: Less is More' presentation also appealed to respecting the humanity of those involved. 'People are not going to 'lean' themselves out of their jobs,' warns Hager, noting that Toyota and Honda have commitments not to lay off people, except in dire straights.

Dennis and Hager suggest the need to constantly refine processes, question how things are done, and appeal to motivated employees to set and follow standards. Look at value versus waste, subscribe to 'pull,' (customers buy, you make), and strive for perfection. Waste must be eliminated. Value-adding process activities usually account for just 5% of total time, perhaps 30% for exceptional companies, say Dennis and Hager. That leaves a lot of room to improve. Where?

  1. Wasted motion.

  2. Waiting for product or information required for the process.

  3. Conveyance—Many material flow diagrams look like a pinball game.

  4. Corrections. If you have 'hospitals' to heal products at the end of the line, the process requires emergency surgery.

  5. Over processing. Make customers happy, but don't get ridiculous.

  6. Over production. Don't make more than what's required any sooner than it's needed to avoid many hidden costs of overproduction, including, as Henry Ford said, wasting human time.

  7. Inventory excess. Excesses are often built in to compensate for unstable equipment or processes.

  8. Missed opportunities. Ask: 'What should we do to sustain goals we've set?'

Hager says that in asking people to point out examples of waste during a plant walk-through, excuses and explanations fly. Just identify wasteful processes and why they exist, 'then eliminate them.'

Perhaps as a corollary to Isaac Asimov's First Law of Robotics (in I, Robot ), we should say technology shouldn't be allowed to do harm through process inaction. For related links, read this online at www.controleng.com .

MHoske@cfemedia.com


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