Manufacturing plants are always looking for ways to improve productivity, whether through the introduction of new systems, adjusting organizational processes, or addressing employee engagement.
Employee engagement directly impacts productivity as engaged and motivated employees are more efficient in the workplace. You can go right here to find out more.
One of the most effective methods to improve productivity is lean manufacturing, a process that has been around for decades but still remains relatively unknown by those outside the industry.
Lean manufacturing is a system designed to reduce waste and increase efficiency throughout all levels of production, from raw materials to shipping.
This article will explore how this process can help any plant get more accomplished in less time with fewer resources.
1. Line Setup Improvement Process (SI)
The first step is to identify and implement line setups using the Line Setup Improvement Process SI.
Line setup times are areas where plants tend to have a lot of waste built up, so this process works by identifying activities that can be performed in parallel vs. sequentially, cutting down on time wasted in transferring materials from one location to another.
A great way to solve this issue is through mechanising tasks that could be slowed by people.
Something like a palletizing robot will make certain parts of the process go exponentially faster.
Additionally, when workers are given more control over their individual tasks they also become more involved in continuous improvement opportunities for the plant.
2. Cellular Flow
Cellular flow is a lean manufacturing process focused on improving work processes through design. It focuses on eliminating waste at every available opportunity.
This method is used to create a timely and smooth production flow for parts moving in the plant.
The idea here is to organize equipment and workers around a small group of tasks that produce one product, instead of organizing by how many machines you have available in your plant.
When cellular flow principles are applied correctly, it can drastically reduce lead time from when materials enter the door until they exit out the back end.
In fact, some manufacturers have seen their overall processing times shrink from days or weeks down to just minutes using this process.
For example, if a machine is not running, there should be no reason to have raw materials sitting by the station waiting for it since they will likely go bad or become scrap before they can be used.
It does this by varying downtime with different types of work using pull production. This process involves making only what is needed when it’s needed.
3. Flow Manufacturing System
Flow manufacturing system concentrates on preventing delays while trying to balance out capacity and demand while minimizing work-in-process inventory levels at any given time during the course of production.
It does this by removing boundaries that inhibit flow in both physical spaces between departments as well as time delays caused by unnecessary tasks that are sometimes required by certain regulations or circumstances beyond the plant workers’ control.
Because of the massive energy necessary to run bulky equipment and machinery, business electricity prices poses a majority concern in manufacturing facilities. Manufacturing facilities can save energy because the one work unit moves between each step — without breaks in time, substance, sequence, or extent with a continuous flow manufacturing process. Also, constant flow saves time and costs with implementation.
4. Kanban System
This lean manufacturing system is designed to reduce the amount of inventory required in the production process by using visual cues like kanbans (cards or stickers) that signal when it’s time to produce more parts rather than waiting for specific orders before making anything.
Parts are produced in batches so they can be made faster and more efficiently, with less waste than if each part was manufactured one at a time.
This means fewer tools, equipment, and workers are needed throughout the entire process across the entire plant.
Also, it helps control a company’s supply and demand.
So, how does a Kanban system work? For example, a store in the United States sells bags manufactured in Thailand. The store at a time only keeps a small number of bags in and holds inventory in a warehouse. Using this lean manufacturing system, the bag store only orders to fill up the stock inventory in the warehouse to cover the manufacturing facility’s lead time.
Many manufacturing facilities implement the Kanban system with many of their clients. But instead of physical cues, like cards, the Kanban system is done electronically now with the advancement of digital technology.
5. Poka Yoke
Poka Yoke is a method of mistake proofing, which means it focuses on preventing errors before they happen rather than focusing on fixing mistakes after the damage has already been done.
It does this through poka-yoke devices like stop buttons, lights, gauges with alarms, etc., all intended to prevent human errors, typically caused by slips or mistakes in judgment.
The benefits of poka-yoke include improved safety, higher productivity, reduced waste, reduced training time, and continuous improvement. Putting safety measures in place prevents exposing workers to unsafe conditions. In addition, poka-yoke detects defective products urgently during the manufacturing process, yielding a higher output quality.
6. Andon Cord
The Andon cord is a system that helps notify other workers about issues whenever an error occurs while also notifying plant managers who can assess the issue and make changes if necessary.
This process is typically used in production environments since it informs other employees about what they might need to do differently while also providing time for management to make any required adjustments preventing defects from potentially making their way out of the building during packaging or shipping processes.
7. Standardized Work Instructions
Seiketsu Kaizen is the Japanese term for the practice of standardizing work.
This process involves taking a sample amount of specific jobs in an area and making them ideal examples that everyone in that department will follow when performing similar tasks.
These standards are then written down or printed on cards which can be easily accessed by workers when they need to perform their job duties.
Standardized work instructions are documents which guide employees through every step they need to take when performing a certain set of tasks together as part of their job duties.
These may be helpful for new hires or for employees who have been out sick and the job is a bit different now than they remember.
When you make sure that these documents are standardized throughout the work plant, you are making sure that every worker performs their department’s tasks in exactly the same way.
This is the best way for preventing any time wasted on unnecessary steps that do not contribute to the end product.
8. Workplace Organization
Finally, the last key to improving the effectiveness and efficiency of your manufacturing process is ensuring that there is plenty of space for everyone to work.
The workplace needs to be organized so it’s easy for employees to find everything they need quickly without wasting time searching through supply closets or large bins stacked high with unused tools or equipment.
You may wish to invest in things like asset tags for laptops, and other things that get moved around a lot, so that you are able to keep track of them and make sure that they, and the data on them, are safe.
There is only so much time in a working year.
Clear pathways from one area of production straight to the next also help prevent any delays from backups during the assembly line since every worker can just keep going as soon as a part has been passed off rather than having to stop and wait until a stack of parts has been collected before moving on.
By implementing just a few improvements into your plant’s operation, you’ll start seeing higher levels of worker productivity, fewer mistakes that lead to costly errors, and a much shorter time before products can be packaged and shipped out.
The eight processes in this article are just some of the ways that your manufacturing facility can find new, innovative methods to increase productivity.
These proven strategies will help any plant get more accomplished with less time and fewer resources.
Whether you’re looking for improved efficiency or increased profitability, these ideas should provide a good starting point when considering how best to improve production at your plant.