Friday, July 11, 2008

How Lean is Your Manufacturing Machine?

Manufacturing is more challenging today than ever before and most businesses struggle with many of the same critical issues:

  • Customer definition of value is constantly changing and is a lot more challenging.

  • Lead times are shrinking and on-time delivery to customers is less than satisfactory.

  • Inventory is out of balance with both shortages and excesses.

  • High cost purchasing/material mangers are expediting material.

  • There are more “Hot” tags on the floor than ever before.

  • Capacity problems…struggling to get enough product out the door.

  • Some work centers are idle while others are over capacity.

  • Profit margins are shrinking and cash flow is a problem.

  • Processes have excess labor, material or time or all three.

Becoming a lean organization can eliminate these challenges. Reduce inventory, lead times, labor cost, expediting and frustration. Increase customer value, throughput, capacity, cash flow and profits. Sounds idealistic? It's not. Going down the path to lean is rewarding and productive, both for the individual and the organization. Especially in these economically hard times, eliminating waste and concentrating on value added activities can give an organization the competitive edge it needs to stay afloat during hard times and really prosper during better times.

As I see it, there are two keys to being successful in the lean transformation:

  • Having a plan - going through the process with a plan and clear expectations will allow everyone involved to know where you are going and how well you are accomplishing the goal.

  • Managing the change - going lean is a likely a culture change/paradigm shift for the organization. It's probably a fundamental change in how the business is run, so working to make the change in behavior and then sustaining it has to be a conscious effort.

Companies that are successful at going lean are flexible, agile, good places to work and most importantly - profitable. They are able to change with the times much better than most and are poised for success in the future. There is lots of help out there if you are not sure how to go about it (most don't) so, go for it! Good Luck!