Lean manufacturing is a popular philosophy in manufacturing, designed to help companies operate efficiently. It is a policy that covers everything from inventory to maintenance schedules. Plant managers, preventive maintenance departments and even purchasing must all work together in order to make the lean system perform as it should. It requires a lot of work to establish an effective lean process, but the benefits are well worth it.
An in-depth understanding of your business is necessary in order to undertake the switch to the lean system. However, the result is a plant that is organized by process, product, mechanisms, and efficiency. Anything additional (processes, machinery, products, etc.) is purged from the plant.
Changing over to lean manufacturing is a great way to reduce many of the costs incurred during manufacturing processes. Overhead is reduced because you are shedding unnecessary costs in staffing. Inventory costs are also reduced due to the low quantities kept on hand. Despite the mantra that lean manufacturing is not solely about cost savings, no company can deny this advantage of the program.
The reductions in inventory and unnecessary machinery, even the consolidation of processes will leave you with more space in the plant. This space can be put to better use on additional projects, new capabilities, or simply closed off until it is needed to save money on utility costs. Some companies may find enough space to expand their operations without buying a new building.
Another byproduct of the lean manufacturing process is an increase in plant safety. Clutter, including un-needed equipment, can pose hazards such as trip, fire or spill hazards, especially when left unattended. The Lean system also groups like processes, eliminating the movements that are counter-intuitive to the task which may lead to injury.
The reduced lead-time in production has an additional benefit as well. With less time between order and shipment, the company becomes for agile. This allows companies to better accommodate interruptions in production, supply, or shipment without inconvenience to the customer. If need be, the shorter lead-time allows the company to produce another order to replace the original in a shorter period of time.
Lean manufacturing was created to serve the automotive industry, but has been adapted to fit any manufacturing process. Whether your business is food processing or consumer products, the benefits of lean manufacturing have something to offer any company.