LEAN manufacturing has many definitions. Here at Metalwest, we define LEAN as, “The systematic method to identify and eliminate waste by flowing the product at the pull of the customer.”
Let’s look at these underlined elements:
Everything in LEAN is a system – a system that can be analyzed, measured, improved upon, and repeated with expected results.
As humans, we have an innate ability to adapt or work-around obstacles in our environment. You cannot improve something, if you can’t see it. Our managers and supervisors provide observations of our critical processes on the floor. This allows our employees to see their process from a different perspective.
If you can remove waste from your process, you will also remove cost. Waste comes in many forms. At Metalwest, we use the acronym DOWNTIME to remember the most common wastes: Defects, Overproduction, Waiting, Non-Value Added Processing, Transportation (of product), Inventory, Motion (of person), and underutilization of Employee knowledge, skills and abilities. We’ll talk more about these in our next post!
Henry Ford wanted to manufacture a car that the everyday person could afford. He understood to achieve this goal, he needed to FLOW the Model ‘T’ through his warehouse in less time. Less time meant less cost and the innovation of the assembly line allowed him to achieve this goal.
Your customers determine your demand. You should only replenish what your customers are buying (or “PULLING”) out of your store.
In the world of LEAN, most manufacturers will tell you that only 5% of their effort is spent adding value. Value is defined as any activity that changes the form, fit, or function of the product. At Metalwest, we add value when we cut-to-length, level, and slit-to-width carbon and non-ferrous steel. We change the form of the coil to cut, leveled sheet or slit coil. This is where we add value for our customers. It must be done right the first time and the customer must be willing to pay for it; otherwise, it’s one of the eight wastes listed above.
So if 5% of our time is spent cutting, leveling, and slitting, what is the other 95%?
The other 95% is non-value added activities. It’s packaging, loading a truck, invoicing, collecting money, entering sales orders, maintaining our equipment, buying steel, and the list goes on! Clearly, we couldn’t provide our manufacturing services for our customers without these other activities, but it’s important to streamline them as much as possible, reducing costs and increasing speed to market along the way.
Lean manufacturing is a systematic method that helps Metalwest stay focused on value-added activities.
Guest Post by Andrea Trevino, director of performance for Metalwest