The global impact of the virus has shaken nearly every manufacturing business around the world. The months ahead will probably be quite volatile and dynamic. If there was ever a moment to reconsider the status quo, this is it. We expect to see an increase in the shift in global supply chains, in changing consumption patterns, and in the prevalence of remote working methods.
Smart moves to achieve innovative continuous improvements will help companies navigate the current crisis and will pay dividends down the road. Of course, every crisis is different, but the strongest innovators are in the best position to accelerate out of the crisis when conditions improve.
Lean manufacturing systems have never been more important to the manufacturing industry than right now. Lean manufacturing improves efficiency, reduces waste, and increases productivity. The benefits, therefore, are manifold:
- Increased product quality: Improved efficiency frees up employees and resources for innovation and quality control that would have previously been wasted.
- Improved lead times: As manufacturing processes are streamlined, businesses can better respond to fluctuations in demand and other market variables, resulting in fewer delays and better lead times.
- Sustainability: Less waste and better adaptability creates a better-equipped business, one that will be able to thrive going into the future.
- Employee satisfaction: Workers know when their daily routine is bloated or packed with unnecessary work, and it negatively affects morale. Lean manufacturing boosts not only productivity, but employee satisfaction.
- Increased profits: And, of course, more productivity with less waste and better quality ultimately makes for a more profitable company.
Key to Lean Systems, it must:
- Visualize Losses
- Have Real time and reliable data
- Be simple to use
- Direct focus to the area that has greatest loss in productivity
- Create a universal language for the entire organization
- Centralized Storage of data
- Provide ease access to training material
By observing continuous improvement best practices, companies can figure out ways to continue business as usual while analyzing improvement opportunities along the way.
An effective continuous improvement strategy should always start with an Industry 4.0 tool that assists with identifying losses.
In today’s world, data is the foundation of every decision we make. The quality and integrity of that data is critical as is feeds information into every other step in the continuous improvement cycle. Use smart tools to measure & monitor objective data, in real time. These tools must be simple and easy-to-use. When they are used effectively, they create a universal language for the entire organization.
The second step is to perform data-driven analysis in order to identify areas of improvement which can be used as a focus point to plan which studies are relevant. Use Pareto Theory to visualize your losses, as this directs focus to the area with the greatest loss in productivity. It is also important to look for trends in historical data to identify improvement opportunities in the process workflow.
Next, physically view the process on the shop floor (or where it occurs). Perform a process analysis and method studies to identify waste in the current process and highlight utilization. The third step enables informed decision-making.
With all the information that has been gathered, it is time to apply lean methodology and propose new solutions for productivity improvement. When implementing changes in the process, ensure that new Work Instructions are distributed, and that training material is easily available. During step four, take time to consider if further coaching and support is required.
Lastly, the final step is critical to ensure sustainability. Always review data again to evaluate if the improvements were successful, before standardizing the process. Remember, there is always potential for further continuous improvement.
Tomorrow’s innovation leaders will be made today.
Applying continuous improvement requires participation from everyone in the organization from top floor to shopfloor. Managers need to foster an environment of trust, collaboration, open communication, and a willingness to experiment. And, workers need to be engaged in their work and be challenged to come up with small gradual improvements each and every day.
As the demands on our processes increase, they evolve and adapt accordingly, often resulting in processes which are inefficient and wasteful. Lean is about challenging the way things are done and opening our eyes to that waste and inefficiency. The environment in which an organization operates will continue to change; Lean can help organizations meet the challenge. This will lead to a more economically competitive organization, more efficient work processes, and more satisfied employees.