Lean Manufacturing Tools and Techniques – With companies and manufacturing units getting upgraded to newer and more efficient practices, it becomes evident that there’s a great need for manufacturing tools and techniques to improve this situation. Manufacturing is gaining momentum as the world market is progressing through each day. With newer businesses making the cut and the demand within global markets on the increase, it is but necessary for businesses to put their best foot forward and meet the ever-increasing needs and demands.
A rise in demand would require production or manufacturing to be increased. This would mean to keep the same high level of quality, with reduced wastage, and shorter time period, without cost inflation. In order to keep a strong control on all of these factors and elements, it’s necessary to know about concepts and approaches that are used all around world, to get production/manufacturing up and running in the most efficient manner. And, this is exactly what we’re going to have a look through in this article, taking into account one of the most sought-after systems in the project management paradigm—Lean Manufacturing.
What is Lean Manufacturing?
Often referred to as just “Lean”, Lean Manufacturing essentially is a method that is used in the elimination of waste (or, Muda) along the value stream of a particular manufacturing workflow. A peculiar feature in Lean Manufacturing is the fact that it takes into account the overburdening on resources and also the unevenness of the workload through the value stream. Lean Manufacturing aims at bringing in an even distribution of work, or compensating the time for work, and ensuring that production doesn’t waste any of the main business factors of: quality, time, cost, and resources.
Lean Manufacturing focuses on the value stream and makes sure that each value adding component or process is brought to the fore-front and those that don’t add any sort of value to the flow of work are eliminated from the workflow; hence, the term “Lean”.
Devised by Toyota Production System, Lean Manufacturing aims at enhancing the overall customer experience and focuses on reduction or complete elimination of the 7 types of wastes. These wastes are as follows: (TIMWOOD)
6 Lean Manufacturing Tools and Techniques
Now, since you’re updated with the best way to enhance your manufacturing and production process, it becomes essential for you to know the different tools and techniques used within Lean Manufacturing and know how to use them and where. So, let’s dive into the 6 most-used and basic, yet effective, tools and techniques you need to know.
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Within the paradigm of Lean Manufacturing, 5S is a simple, yet powerful, Japanese tool that is used for the purpose of organizing a workplace in a very systematic, clean, and safe manner. This organizing enhances your productivity, work standardization efforts, and helps in visual management.
5S ensures that a manufacturing or production unit experiences standardization throughout its workflow, at all levels of the process. With standard operational practices in tow, it becomes easier for work to proceed in an efficient, safe, and repeatable manner. This way iterations can take place at higher speed, thus, promoting higher levels of production.
For an organization implementing 5S, this tool becomes the foundation stone for all the other Lean Manufacturing tools to be used and organized effectively. The 5S tool works methodically in 5 phases. These 5 phases are termed in Japanese and are transliterated in English to form 5 “S” terms. They are as follows:
- 5S Seiri – or, Sort, is the first step of the 5S and involves sorting of the all the mess and clutter within the workplace while keeping only the important and extremely useful items within the work area.
- 5S Seiton – or, Straighten, is the next step that dictates the process of arranging the decluttered items in an efficient manner so as to be used using the principles of ergonomics. This step ensures that every single item has its place and those items go back to their place.
- 5S Seiso – or, Sweep, is the step that involves a thorough cleaning of the work area, the tools to be used, all the systems, machines and equipment to be used in the manufacturing unit of the company. This will ensure that all the apparatus used during production and assembly are as good as new to eliminate any non-conformity that may arise due to technical difficulties.
- 5S Seiketsu – or, Standardize, ensures that whatever work was conducted in the first 3 steps are now standardized accordingly. This builds in the common standards and how we need to work among the team. Standardization is a key component within Lean Manufacturing, thus, this becomes a crucial phase.
- 5S Shitsuke – or, Sustain, is the final stage that ensures that the company keeps up to the standards adhered and conformed to. This stage involves housekeeping and auditing of the processes and tools and equipment. It is during this stage that the work routine becomes a culture.
The concept of cellular manufacturing increases the different mix of products onto a single manufacturing unit, while dealing with minimum waste. Going to the basics of this technique, we need to understand what a cell is. A cell can consists of work areas / work stations and equipment arranged in a suitable manner so as to facilitate smooth operation of the workflow. This would mean the smooth processing of the materials and elements through a process. This cell even boasts of trained operators who are qualified to work within it.
Cellular manufacturing very well depends on the arrangement of all the components within a work area in production and can lead to great advantages when implemented correctly. A principle within cellular manufacturing is that of one-piece flow. This concept ensures that the product moves through the production process in one single unit at a time without any vague or sudden interruptions. Even the pace set to the process would be the one defined and slated by the customer’s needs and demand rate.
Cellular manufacturing addresses the issue of catering to the multiple product lines required by customers. This technique groups similar products together so as to process them in the same sequence and on the same equipment. This reduces the time that would be lost in the changeover between the different products and offers the production line with smaller, containable units of products. Cellular manufacturing also ensures that space is effectively utilized at all instances of production. Apart from these, cellular manufacturing also contributes to reducing the lead time and improving productivity of the production line. With a lot of clarity, this technique, within Lean Manufacturing, also enhances flexibility and transparency between different product lines and enhances teamwork and communication between various departments.
Staying true to its name, Continuous Improvement is a methodology within Lean Manufacturing that advocates the following of formal practices or an informal set of rules and guidelines. More than a methodology, the attitude of constantly wanting to improve is what is influenced through this tool. Continuous Improvement, often known as Rapid Improvement, helps streamline all the workflows that are deployed within the production environment. This promotes efficient workflows, and efficient workflows help in saving time, cost, and resources. Thus, this fulfills the main concept behind Lean Manufacturing. Each task is undertaken with a view to continuously improve with time and each resource working towards improvement of services, products, or processes are properly trained and fine-tuned for use.
Continuous Improvement follows the proceeding quality cycle, called the Deming Cycle, or PDCA cycle, which comprises of 4 phases that the product or process needs to go through. They are as follows:
- Plan – In this phase an opportunity for change is identified and the planning is carried out to bring about this change within the system.
- Do – Once the planning is completed and verified, the plan is then executed for the change to be implemented within the system.
- Check – In this stage, data is collected and viewed to check the success of the change, which was implemented. The results are analyzed with a view to determine whether the change brought about was successful.
- Act – Once the change is determined to be successful, the plan is implemented on a much wider scale and continuous assessment takes place. Again, the check stage is followed after large-scale implementation.
In Japanese, the coined-in term “Jidoka” can be defines as “automation with human intervention”. This term gained importance during the 19th century when the automatic, self-powered loom was put into action by Sakichi Toyoda, founder of the Toyota groups of companies. This automatic loom would stop if it detected a break in the thread during the process of looming. The operator handling the loom would then intervene and fix the thread before resuming the function.
This would mean that each time a breakage was detected, the production process would temporarily halt, till it’s fixed. This way no defective product was even produced, ensuring 100% quality to customers. Also, it took only a single operator to handle this entire operation which was essentially cost-effective—improvement in productivity of the process. In short the process put into effective all the principles and philosophies of Lean Manufacturing and the process looks something like this:
System detects abnormality and communicates this to the main system
↳ Detection of deviation from the normal workflow
↳ Production halts
↳ Operator/supervisor/manager checks for the issue and resolves the problem
↳ All changes made are incorporated to reflect in the standard workflow
This way you can feed in all the defects and abnormalities and when a workflow deviates from this standardized flow, the system can immediately let you know into order to rectify and feed the next anomaly in.
Total Productive Maintenance
Machine downtime is a serious concern on a production line and can cause detrimental issues if the problem isn’t resolved on time. Reliability on the machines and equipment on the manufacturing line is one concern that is addressed within Lean Manufacturing, with the help of the tool, Total Productive Maintenance. Setting up a Total Productive Maintenance program becomes a necessity in a Lean Manufacturing environment.
The Total Productive Maintenance program is essentially made up of 3 components, which boost the working of the production/manufacturing line. They are as follows:
- Preventive Maintenance – These are regularly planned and executed maintenance activities and not mere random checks conducted by the workers. Here, the crew is expected to perform periodic and complete equipment maintenance for all the machines to check for any anomalies in the functioning. This will ensure that sudden breakdowns do not occur and the throughput for each equipment is increased.
- Corrective Maintenance – This kind of maintenance revolves around making the decision of whether there is a need for fixing or purchasing new equipment altogether. It makes sense for some machines that are experiencing frequent breakdowns to be examined and completely replaced for further loss of money and resource or even quality.
- Maintenance Prevention – This component ensures that the machines purchased are the right ones. A machine that is hard to maintain will only cause more trouble and loss of investment for the organization. Workers will find it difficult to continuously maintain it, resulting in serious loss.
Total Quality Management
An important Lean Manufacturing technique, Total Quality Management is a continuous quality program aimed at bringing about teamwork among departments, to come together and ensure a self-reliant workflow, outputting optimum quality of products. TQM deals with participative management and focuses on the customer needs and demands, accordingly aligning the process of production and timelines. Total Quality Management looks at the following key components as part of its technique definition:
- Employee involvement and training
- Problem-solving teams
- Statistical methods
- Process and not people
- Focus on long-term goals
- Quality being defined by the needs of the customers
- Direct involvement of the top management being essential to bring about change and increase in steps taken towards quality
- Quality increment being a continuous effort and one that needs to be continued as a long-term plan
- Improvement in work process and the maintenance of the production line
- Systematic analysis after requirement gathering is essential
- Requirement gathering should take place with each department involved and all the employees within those department
Each of these tools and techniques offer a complete and wholesome Lean Manufacturing system of their own. While 5S and Continuous Improvement along with other tools, such as Kaizen, promote the foundation of Lean Manufacturing, Jidoka and tools such as JIT (Just-In-Time) prove to be the pillars of Lean Manufacturing, providing the necessary support to the qualitative structure that it promotes.
Cellular Manufacturing comes across as a solid methodology within the Lean Manufacturing world and offers to be a great tool for the production line to reduce on time and cost, and utilize resources and space effectively. Lastly, TQM ensures that quality is never neglected while increasing the throughput of machines and processes alike.
Lean Manufacturing is an important way of management within the production/manufacturing world whose concepts have slowly and steadily entered into the world of business and has proved to be beneficial in all strata of these businesses. Using Lean Manufacturing is all about understanding the concepts behind these tools and techniques. Once you’re familiar with these concepts, implementation can be based on your work culture and production style, as Lean Manufacturing has managed to strike success in all different sectors and forms of businesses.