During the current pandemic, no one had ever imagined that almost all citizens across the world will have restricted movement and be mostly confined to their homes or that work from home will become a reality. However, this will be an integral part of the working culture, even after we get over this pandemic, & this may be relevant even in manufacturing. However, the biggest challenge before us now is to restart the economy and move quickly toward normal business. The learnings from this current epidemic are immense and one must look into the key elements.
Preparing and planning for change is the key to success. The manufacturing sector also needs to undergo a big change, and teams have to play a big role in the survival of the organisation and therefore, the people.
I would like to highlight two important areas to focus on for the manufacturing world:
Flexibility in manufacturing
With the changing customer needs and circumstances, we have to prepare our manufacturing systems accordingly. The type and quantity of products manufactured should quickly respond to the changing market demand. We have had issues in the past where fixed manufacturing plans were made for three months, and in some cases, even six months & manufacturing had very low flexibility. However, we have seen automobile companies attempting to manufacture health products during the current pandemic, designing and making complicated, highly technical ventilators. Surely, most of the companies got involved in making masks, safety equipment and sanitisers, in the time of need, instead of depending on imports and the same helped the Indian economy.
The key advantage of flexible manufacturing is in managing resources, like time and effort, in order to manufacture a new product, and at the same time, switch over to an alternate product on the same lines, with very low or negligible time. This saves cost and reduces the response time to changes in market requirement. This is no more a luxury but a need.
The primary need for lean management is to reduce waste in a manufacturing system and at the same time, maximise productivity. The customer will value certain features of the product in terms of what they would pay for the product or service. Based on market research, the management has to figure out what adds value and what doesn’t. Lean management system then removes/reduces all that doesn’t add value. This makes the product cost-competitive and thus, increases the probability of customer demand.
Companies must analyse each stage of the supply chain for waste. It is important to identify ways to improve lead time. They also need to be prepared for reduced lead time for new jobs or products when the demand arises or changes. Plus lean manufacturing works on a very thin inventory and component inventory is also kept at a bare minimum to make an organisation extremely efficient to meet the changing demands in market. This keeps the customers happy and creates a strong brand image of the organisation.