Lean Manufacturing, Assessment Example
Pill Box Incorporated has recently seen a decrease in the amount of revenue they were experiencing in previous years. Leadership has determined that in order to remain profitable and competitive a cultural change in their manufacturing facility is in order. The consultancy team was called in to implement a lean management philosophy by utilizing the tools and techniques within lean to provide a better quality and cost efficient product to the consumer. The goal of the consultancy firm is to provide the tools necessary for Pill Box Incorporated to successfully implement their first lean project. The major objective is the transformation of the company from the reactionary and inefficient current state to the lean driven philosophy leadership is envisioning.
Pill Box Incorporated came to the consulting firm with a very specific concern regarding their product. In the first year profits were fantastic partly due to the fact that it was a new product that the consumer demanded. Once the initial surge for the product was over the demand for the product started to stabilize but the manufacturing process was not stable within itself. The process was new and did not inherently enjoy the benefits of a documented and rigorous manufacturing process. The goal of the consulting firm is to incorporate the lean management methodology to help eliminate the processes, actions or lack of actions that are causing waste throughout the process. Lean management is a set of tools designed to help eliminate the multiple areas of waste and ultimately drive a manufacturing process that produces quality products to the consumer. The leadership has determined that taking on a lean management philosophy was the direction the company was going to take and the consulting firm was going to facilitate that change.
In order to implement a lean manufacturing methodology, it is imperative that the team understands the process and purpose of what lean manufacturing entails. The basis for the entire lean methodology is to limit or eliminate any action or functions from the manufacturing process that does not create value to the end customer. Lean is a set of tools that can help provide the necessary means of reducing waste through the manufacturing process. This set of tools focus on eliminating the different kinds of waste which are transportation, inventory, motion, waiting, overproduction, over processing and defects. Of all of these wastes some are more apparent and receive more attention than others. For example, Pill Box Incorporated saw the negative implications of defects when there was a return of their product due to defects. As a reaction to the returns, some companies may go directly to the product and try to fix the perceived issue with the product. It is imperative that the company understand why the defects are occurring and fix the root cause of the issue and not waste yet more resources fixing a result of a problem instead of the problem itself. Each team member of the consultancy team will be required to own a specific set of responsibilities. These responsibilities include design of the lean process, training, awareness, communication, lean leadership, tool box preparedness, continuous improvement, cultural awareness, philosophical buy-in and team management. As a consultant the ultimate goals are to provide the tools necessary for Pill Box Incorporated to do their lean activities.
Lean management implementation is continuous process that requires a change in the way the company conducts their business (Pettersen 2009). There was a need identified by Pill Box Incorporated to provide a better product to their customer so that the company does not have to endure the burden of having their product returned due to defects. While leadership chose to implement a lean manufacturing process to facilitate the changes necessary to prevent poor quality it is important to note that one of the major factors in adopting a lean manufacturing methodology is that the company must also adopt the lean culture. One of the major tasks of the team is to bring in leadership and ensure that the culture change is pushed from the top down to not only kick off the culture change but also create a sustainable environment for the lean culture. Implementing lean management is often like opening a tool box and selecting the correct tool for the job. Lean management is also in a continuous state of improvement so that it must also be understood that while there should be recognizable gains from each lean management activity to goal is to continuously improve and strive to draw down the wastes in the manufacturing process. There are two basic methods to implement lean management projects (Hanover 2006). The first method is a tools based approach and the second is a flow based approach. Both implementations work through a repeatable process which results in an improved area that contains a repeatable and sustainable process improvement.
The tools based process works through a project management methodology while implementing various lean tools through the process. In this method the initial phase is to bring leadership in and voice their intentions of bringing in the lean vision for the company. Once that is established the project leader develops project as any other project would start up. The first difference in the project start up requires the project manager to solicit for a group of volunteers to form the lean implementation team. From this point the team will need to be trained on the lean tools, view other areas that have implemented lean and ultimately choose a project that could be used in Pill Box Incorporated. After the project is selected, the processes is evaluated, monitored and lean tools are utilized to make changes. From these changes new standards are developed and adopted into the manufacturing process. Once the process is standardized, the team can move to the next lean project following the same process.
The next method is the flow based approach. The ultimate goal of this lean management program is to remove as many quality problems from the process as possible and increase the ability and rate of flow from the beginning to the end of the process. Once the quality areas are recognized they can be improved with the lean tools. The overall process of this system is to identify areas that are causing a slow down or stoppage and improve that flow. This is done by monitoring the flow, identifying area for improvement, introducing standard work and locking down the improvements so that they are repeatable.
In order to solve a problem the first step is identification of that problem. In order to get the most visible and impactful results we can focus on the reason why the consulting firm was asked to implement the lean philosophy. If it was not for the loss in revenue from a poorly made product the need by Pill Box Incorporated would not have called in the experts to implement what they believe to be the solution. Leadership saw a problem with returns and called in a group of consultants to implement a tool to fix the problem. This could be the first problem area that the team will need to address. The leadership’s culture seems to be that of a problem solving nature. The leadership saw a problem and then presented a solution which was implementing lean. A quality issue with a product leads to a culture change in the company. While this could result in the desired expectations of leadership, climbing over the mountain of solving results of problems instead of root causes of the issues could raise flags for future lean projects. In this instance quality of the product will be addressed and while removing as much waste from the production line as possible there should be a resulting quality improvement as well.
The first step of the consultancy team is to help identify the problem (Vernvi 2007). This will set the stage for the leadership to push the lean philosophy through their business. By using the tools, the assigned lean team will be lead to the production line. This is called a gemba walk (Holweg 2007). The focus of this walk is to go where the problem is occurring and see first-hand the issues that are arising. Once the lean team identifies the areas that could be improved they are charged with creating and implementing a solution within a short and defined unit of time. Once this has been implemented, the process is documented and the next improvement can occur. These small and continuous improvements will lean out the production line and improve the overall product. Some examples that could result from this lean walkthrough could be a decrease in the amount of material the assemblers are using due to incorrect tools being provided to the line or a decrease in rework by the end of the line by leveling out the amount of work each assembler must perform and not overwork some assemblers while underworking others. This would not be evident if a gemba walk was not performed. The quality of the product would improve due to improvements in the production line. Each area of production that impacts quality could be reviewed and improved.
Hanover, B (2006) Deliciously lean – a mouth-watering introduction to lean manufacturing for printing professionals and sandwich makers alike. SGIA Journal Fourth Quarter 2006. Available from: http://tpslean.com/pdfs/introtolean.pdf.
Holweg, Matthias (2007). The genealogy of lean production. Journal of Operations Management 25 (2): 420–437.
Pettersen, J., (2009). Defining lean production: some conceptual and practical issues. The TQM Journal, 21(2).
Sager, T and Winkelman, S., (2001), Six sigma: positioning for competitive advantage. Available from: http://www.crowell.com/documents/DOCASSOCFKTYPE_ARTICLES_492.pdf.
Vernvi, B., (2007), Where are the real problems in manufacturing? Available from: http://americanmachinist.com/Classes/Article/ArticleDraw.aspx?HBC=iCopyright&NIL=False&CID=71108&OASKEY.
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