Lean Introduction & The 5 Key Steps

Why Lean?

The consolidation and globalisation of manufacturing has resulted in a more competitive marketplace. Customers are demanding more from their suppliers. Prices are being driven down, we all want increased salaries, better terms and conditions and an improved working environment. To support this all other costs must reduce for the business to be competitive.

Just In Time manufacturing is becoming the standard. Customers are looking for increased reliability and risk sharing. These changes have already happened in other industries, and have brought about dramatic changes in the way companies have to do business. Pressures to improve on Quality, Cost, Delivery, Time to Market, Lead-times, Minimum Order Quantities and Increased Customer Satisfaction has increased and improvements are now expected, if not demanded, by our customers.

Many companies have made a good start and have a solid foundation in lean, giving them the opportunity to accelerate their programme and achieve world class status.

What is Lean?

Lean is the creation of flow and the elimination of waste. It means Ôspeed of through-putÕ. We need to challenge preconceptions and, through Lean, develop new and far more effective methods and systems. We must remember that Lean is a continuous process with no finish line and will encompass all manner of established improvement mechanisms such as Kaizen, TQM, CI, SPC, TPM, Quality Circles to name but a few.

Why is it Critical?

Continuous improvement will enable companies to win more business, generate more satisfied customers and move ahead of the competition.

1. Specify Value

Specify Value involves identifying the customer’s needs and using them as a target to drive our business.

2. Identify the Value Streams

Identify the sequence of processes from raw material to the final customer using Value Stream Analysis. Value Stream Analysis aims to identify all processes contributing to the customer’s Quality, Cost, Delivery and Safety requirements, then to organise them to operate with as little waste as possible.

The key areas for Value Stream Analysis are production flow – from raw materials to the hands of the customer. And Design flow – from concept to launch. For each action there are other related actions earlier in the flow (upstream) or later (downstream).

A future state value stream map is then created. This establishes a goal, and gives the direction for any future Lean activities.

3. Continuous Flow

Continuous flow is the practice of keeping things moving, avoiding batching and queuing. It involves the identification and removal of the 7 wastes. Wasteful operations, processes, systems or working practices are those which do not move the product or service closer to the customer’s requirements. Waste adds costs, and affects on-time delivery and safety.

The 7 MUDAS (£Wastes©) identified by Lean are:

  1. Overproduction – making more than the next customer downstream needs or making it too early. This is the worst waste because it either hides or causes the other wastes.
  2. Inventory – storing parts that are not being processed. Effectively, money that’s been spent but is not moving toward a sale.
  3. Waiting – machines waiting for a manual operation to be completed or a Man waiting for a machine operation to finish.
  4. Transport – inventory in motion – eating floor space and risking damage
  5. Motion – people having to walk, stretch, and bend more than they have to.
  6. Bad Quality – Scrap and rework.
  7. Inappropriate Processes – causing the other wastes, “Using a hammer to crack a nut.”

To create continuous flow requires the implementation of the 5S’s. (Also closely linked with Total Productive Maintenance). This must be the start point of any Lean initiative If we do nothing else we must apply these principles.

Five 5S’s help create an ordered workplace

  1. Seiri (Sort Through & Sort Out) – identify faults in the workplace and remove unnecessary items from the area. This could be obsolete tooling or files you no long require within your direct structure. These are tools, which should be used by everyone in the company.
  2. Seiton (Set Things In Order) – identify the ideal location for the necessary equipment or information.
  3. Seiso (Shine Equipment) – clean the whole area
  4. Seiketsu (Sharing Information & Standardising) – use photographs and action lists to ensure procedures are understood and carried out.
  5. Shitsuke (Stick To The Rules) – the goal – where everything is maintained in peak condition because it is the easiest thing to do. Audit the team areas on a regular basis.

The 5S’s will also improve safety in the workplace

Another aim of continuous flow is to overcome problems generated by current scheduling systems such as MRPII as this caption shows.

Continuous Flow MRPII
Low inventory High inventory
Synchronised processes Isolated processes
Eliminates queues Creates Queues
Responsive Unresponsive
Simple Complex
Encourages effectiveness (power) Encourages efficiency (a ratio of the output to the input)

4. Pull

Pull – is about making only what the customer wants – avoiding overproduction.

Visual signals (often known as Kanban) are sent from the next internal or external customer, to their supplier, to tell them what to make. This way the customer pulls the product through the value stream.

The big difference between pull and MRP is that Pull is focussed on effectively supplying the customer, whereas MRP is focussed on making products efficiently.

5. Perfection/Continuous Improvement

Perfection is the pursuit of driving out waste, not likely to be achieved in one step.

This will only be possible if waste is kept out of the system by the implementation of standard processes.

These must be the unremitting goal of continuous improvement activity.

Achieving perfection will depend on the tenacious and relentless application of the 5 key steps.