How to Identify Needed Improvement in Manufacturing

posted on: Friday February 10, 2017

consulting-2045573_1280We’ve been discussing different lean models in manufacturing and what makes them successful. No matter what strategy you implement, lean is a continual mindset, not a one-and-done plan to execute. So if you want lean to benefit you, everyone at your company has to approach work from a Continuous Improvement point of view. This is easier said than done, however, if you don’t understand how to evaluate the process. By knowing what is considered waste, you can recognize and remedy it.

Here are seven questions that will help you identify wastes so that you can make improvements:

  1. How much time is spent waiting? If a widget or a person is ready for the next step, what is holding up the progression? Is it the production process itself? Are you waiting for people to become available? Determine what prevents work from being done and how you can keep it moving along.
  1. Are you producing more than your customers demand? If you make too much, you’re wasting resources, space, and labor. Just-in-Time (JIT) specifically addresses this. Many companies save resources and costs by only producing enough to meet the actual demand.
  1. How much Work in Process do you have? WIP clogs workflow and promotes a lot of unnecessary handling of materials. JIT and various material handling equipment helps reduce WIP; you can read our article Whip-the-WIP to learn more.
  1. Are you moving your materials efficiently? This is about your transportation methods. Are they suited for the job? For example, do you need that giant forklift, or could other material handling equipment move some loads more efficiently?
  1. Are people and equipment moving efficiently between tasks? This is about movement. You don’t want to make more trips than are necessary, travel an excessive distance, or use more people than you need. Value Stream Mapping is a great way to identify wasted movement.
  1. How many times do you work on the product, and does it add value each time? Every time you pick up a component and set it down without changing it in some way that makes it closer to the finished product is a waste. It does not add value. Cellular manufacturing is an effective strategy that addresses this well. We wrote about it here.
  1. Are your employees being used to their full potential? If you use temporary work staff, this might be rephrased as: can you simplify parts of the process so that a minimally trained person can add more value?

These are the kinds of questions you should always be asking to flush out wastes. Once you’ve found them, the solution may prompt a large change or a small one. Reorganizing your process to implement cellular manufacturing would be a significant change. Replacing forklifts or carts with a tug and cart system would be a more immediate change. Both yield big results; you just need to know what the problems are so that your solution is effective.

Power tugs, or cart pushers, are popular resolutions to several kinds of wastes, like waiting, movement, and transportation. The experts at Load Mover Inc. understand how to use this equipment as a total solution, not just a quick fix. Talk to us if you want to get the most out of your Continuous Improvement-inspired changes: 952-767-1720 or