Implementing Lean Manufacturing in a factory

To implement Lean Manufacturing in an industry, it is necessary to set long-term objectives and, above all, to follow the steps set by this industrial management philosophy. But,what is the lean system for factories, can it be implemented in any factory, how long does it take?

Efficient production is based on a methodology or model for managing teamwork and communication. That is, its focus is to improve this area to increase productivity, quality and reduce waste and unnecessary cost. To implement a Lean Manufacturing model in a factory it is necessary to follow a series of steps.

Finally, the industry will obtain great benefits from the implementation and will improve its competitiveness. In Mesbook we have LEAN software to guide factories towards productive efficiency and as experts in the field we want you to know its possibilities.

Before going deeper, you will like to know that Lean Manufacturing is of Japanese origin and was born from the hand of Sakichi Toyoda, founder of the Toyota Group with the idea of transforming the automotive industry, something he achieved from the beginning with great success. Now, hundreds and thousands of companies around the world replicate this strategy to reduce waste and improve the income - expense ratio.


How to implement Lean Manufacturing in a conventional factory?

To implement lean manufacturing correctly, the first step is to set long-term objectives that are embedded in the definition of lean manufacturing, or "lean production". These objectives do not vary according to each company, as they are already generic enough, rather each company adapts them in a different way. In order to set these objectives, it is advisable to carry out a LEAN self-diagnosis that MESbook has developed after auditing more than 150 companies.

These are the objectives that all industries should set themselves if they want to implement lean manufacturing:

  • Quality improvement: It should not surprise you that this is the first objective, because in fact most of the actions aimed at implementing lean manufacturing are related to the reduction of defects and their costs and expenses, time, material, machinery, etcetera.
  • Involvement of people: Given that the main asset of a company is its people, it is essential that everyone is aligned and committed to the company's objectives.
  • Align the strategy: In many cases, we find ourselves with action plans that do not support the strategic definition of the company, so it is essential that both scenarios, strategy and tactics, are permanently connected.
  • Cost reduction:. Lean manufacturing is based on the assumption that the price is set by the customer based on his criteria, context, desire... therefore, as the industry has less margin to choose the price, it must focus on reducing costs in order to maintain and increase its profits.
  • More agile production: if production is more flexible, costs are reduced, the profit margin is higher in relation to expenses/revenues. In order to achieve flexibility, it is necessary to implement mechanisms that allow a more agile adaptation to market changes, in short, to customer changes.
  • More productivity: this point is the result of the previous ones. If product quality, people involvement, flexibility and costs are increased and reduced, productivity increases. However, in some non-stock industries it can also be important to increase productivity per se.
  • Continuous process improvement: this is the most important point. You must understand lean manufacturing as a philosophy of continuous improvement where there are processes of review, analysis, change... where professional incident control is key.

Now you know the fundamental objectives of lean manufacturing. But how to apply it in industry?

Steps to apply lean manufacturing

Next, we are going to see some of the main steps to insert the lean manufacturing philosophy or methodology in the company.

Most of them are related to eliminating processes, routines, making better use of machines, time, outdated strategies, unnecessary costs and more.

In other words, lean manufacturing focuses on eliminating what is unnecessary (waste) rather than creating new manufacturing options. It is a methodology that involves a cleaning of the factory and allows a better understanding of the errors and options for improvement. Let's take a look at the main types of waste:

  • Overproduction: Trying to manufacture just enough to avoid increasing the remaining waste.
  • Overstocking: This is the main palliative measure used to solve other problems instead of attacking the root cause. Inventory is the main "evil" of factories.
  • Unnecessary transports: It is advisable to eliminate as soon as possible all those movements of materials within the factory, which have a cost and time associated with them, but do not add value.
  • Movements: Reduce or eliminate when possible all those movements of people or devices that defocus tasks towards Value contribution, that is, what the customer is willing to pay for.
  • Defects: and of course, all quality faults found must be eliminated. To do this, analyze the processes, make notes and propose improvements. Then, continue studying until the quality is impeccable. Always with the premise of reducing Quality and Non-Quality costs.
  • Over-processing: Matching processes to product needs to align operating costs.
  • Expectations: Whether from the product, people or machines. This is the easiest to recognize but is not always addressed with the rigor it requires.

Once all this waste has been eliminated, a number of approaches need to be highlighted:

  • Value idea: what adds value to the product, what detracts value from the product, thus identifying unnecessary processes and intensifying those that improve its quality as perceived by the customer.
  • Seamless production: it is not only about reducing time, but also about creating an agile and continuous workflow. To achieve this, it is important to understand each process and its connection with the others. It is advantageous at this point to have a factory management or productivity software.
  • The starting point or trigger: what determines the starting point? the point at which everything starts and decisions are made must be closely related to the demand.

And of course, the idea of continuous improvement, which has been mentioned before, must always be present. To implement lean manufacturing in an industry it is necessary to keep in mind that lean manufacturing is not implemented once, but is in continuous insertion and revision. Lean manufacturing does not rest, it is a trial and error model that seeks to constantly optimize the industry.

Sectors in which to implement lean manufacturing

It can be implemented in all sectors, although in some its effectiveness will be more noticeable than in others. Also, in some it may take a few months or years to show its full potential. Let's take a look at some of the sectors in which lean manufacturing can be implemented:

  • Factories and textile industries
  • Food industry
  • Chemical plants
  • Cement plants
  • Natural gas extraction plants
  • For furniture manufacturing
  • Metals or iron and steel industry
  • Paper mills
  • Automobile factories
  • Brick plants
  • Software factories
  • The pharmaceutical industry

These are just some of the factories and industries where lean manufacturing can be applied. Of course, to do so, it will be easier to use some kind of digitalized help capable of controlling, measuring, analyzing.... the actions, results and change options or variables available. At MESbook we can help you with our state-of-the-art factory software. Contact with us.

Arturo Torres

Customer Success Management Director

Arturo Torres

Industrial Engineer with more than 27 years of experience in different sectors as Director of Operations, Supply Chain, Processes and Quality. Lecturer in institutions such as the Chamber of Commerce and the General Council of Industrial Technical Engineering of Spain.

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