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Lean Manufacturing During Hard Times

Posted June 28, 2011 7:54 AM

Two common responses to poor economic times are personnel cuts and budget cuts. Yet best practices such as lean manufacturing claim to stretch resources beyond what is available. This is said to be particularly true for small- and mid-sized plants. Just how practical is it for manufacturers with less-than-bountiful resources to implement lean manufacturing practices? Has your company saved jobs through successful adaptation of lean practices?

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Associate

Join Date: Jun 2011
Location: Canada
Posts: 38
Good Answers: 1
#1

Re: Lean Manufacturing During Hard Times

06/28/2011 11:52 PM

Lean manufacturing is a waste not want not philosophy. The problem is people have to do constant reality checks to see if they have made conditions such that the end result is impossible. Having exactly the right amount of everything at exactly the right time, and in exactly the right place is difficult in an imperfect world.

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Guru
Engineering Fields - Electrical Engineering - Hmmm...

Join Date: Jul 2010
Location: Maryland
Posts: 567
Good Answers: 29
#2
In reply to #1

Re: Lean Manufacturing During Hard Times

06/29/2011 3:33 PM

Trueheart,

Don't confuse Lean Manufacturing with Just-in-Time manufacturing. Just-in-Time manufacturing reduces inventory by scheduling receipts so that they arrive just as they are needed. If all went well no one company along the supply chain would never need to stock large amounts of inventory. But as noted by Ted, the Machinist that used to supply the company that I worked for, somebody eventually ends up holding backup stock. It's never the final assembly manufacturer, but usually someone further back. In his case, Ted always had 'emergency' stock.

Lean Manufacturing, on the other hand, attempts to reduce inventory by reducing parts count at design time. This includes reducing different types of parts by allowing one part to fit in many places. Screws are a classic example. If you can get away with using two or three different screw sizes instead of a different screw size for each location, you no longer need to stock many screw sizes, but only two or three. In electronics, I try to minimize different resistors, using a limited number of resistor values so that in manufacturing they don't need to stock many different values. In many applications, you can't avoid using unique values. That happens, but the best practice is to try to minimize manufacturing stock by minimizing unique parts. Also, if you can combine molded or machined parts so that they are inventoried as one part and don't need screws or fasteners to assemble.

Lean manufacturing also attempts to minimize assembly time by reducing individual motions needed assemble a part, by simplifying assembly procedures and streamlining assembly in general. Some of this seems like common sense, but it's overlooked by many contemporary product designers.

Lean manufacturing is necessary in hard economic times. It makes the whole process more efficient. Just don't mistake it for JIT or Just-in-Time manufacturing!

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Associate

Join Date: Jun 2011
Location: Canada
Posts: 38
Good Answers: 1
#3
In reply to #2

Re: Lean Manufacturing During Hard Times

06/29/2011 10:42 PM

I tend to combine JIT, Lean, and other process flow control systems. Lean is derived from the the Toyota Production System (TPS) which evolved from other systems. As a tool and die maker I tended to get exposed to Lean Manufacturing when something went wrong. To me the systems quantify common sense, thrift, and minimalism that tradesmen learn through training and experience. A must have tool for Lean Manufacturing is a high end CAD/CAE software which can standardize components, simplify drawings, test designs, and create bills of material in a minimum amount of time. The downside of CAD/CAE is that it does not always take into account existing manufacturing or material handling abilities and the opportunity to combine several parts or designs into one. A project management software like JobBOSS by Exact eliminates redundancy, provides constant communication between people involved in the project while storing project information is a great tool for Lean Manufacturing.

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