Consulting for Small to Medium size Industrial Products companies
Lean Implementation, where should you start?
by Warren Martin, Founder on July 20th, 2013

Where do you start?

When given the directive to implement Lean Manufacturing, many businesses simply don’t know where to start. Small businesses in particular find themselves in this quandary.
Let me try to answer this perplexing question in this blog.

Firstly, if you are a small business and are borderline profitable, you need to focus on actions that will have the most immediate impact on your bottom line. In my experience, small businesses may need capacity to satisfy growing customer needs but simply cannot afford the high cost of new capital equipment.

Lean implementation in certain critical areas can provide solutions. The first area is flow optimization. Diagram the flow your product takes from the beginning to when it is shipped out the door. This process is often called value stream mapping (VSM).  You may be shocked to find out far it travels.  

With this knowledge, reposition equipment and reorient processes to minimize the amount of distance the product travels from beginning to end of the process. When complete, you will likely be pleased how much time is saved and how much capacity you have gained in this exercise.

Next, I would look at Single Minute Exchange of Die (SMED).  This involves product changeovers on your machine tools. Do a pareto analysis by part number from longest changeover time to shortest multiplied by volume. You may be surprised how much time you are losing in changeovers.

Attack from the top of the list and reduce changeover times to less than ten minutes. The most effective method is to prepare the next setup outside of the actual machining process while the current part is being machined. When it is done, you simply uncouple and remove the finished part and put the new setup in the machine tool. You will gain real capacity by dedicating your operation to SMED on all changeovers.

Finally, take a close look at what % of time in a 24 hour day the spindles are actually running on your machine tools. I predict you will be amazed when you see the results. Pareto the results and attack the biggest offenders first.  This process is called Operational Equipment Effectiveness (OEE).  Again, you will gain capacity by completing this exercise.

All three of these lean tools can gain your company “free” capacity, perhaps enough to avoid that capital equipment purchase that you thought you needed. Even more importantly, you will improve the velocity in your factory which can be a real differentiator between you and your competition.

Finally, “free” capacity will likely result in sales and profit increases as well as reduced working capital as a % of sales.

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Posted in Lean Manufacturing    Tagged with Lean Implementation