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LEAN MANUFACTURING Lean manufacturing: From shop floor to top floor growth for streamlined manufacturing

May 18, 2021

B Thej Kumar, Associate Vice President, Toyoda Gosei South India - The pandemic has had a phenomenal effect on the shop floor functioning, and with it, the concept of lean manufacturing has started to gain prominence. The article explores by Toyoda Gosei - a leader in enhancing current technologies and predicting next-generation needs within the automotive industry – the idea of lean manufacturing, key principles and how it can enable proficient supply chain management and growth.

The buzzword in recent times has been COVID-19. The pandemic’s impact has been phenomenal across the globe, with millions of people losing jobs and industries & enterprises pulling down their shutters. In spite of this, many organisations have been able to withstand and also perform better than others.

Manufacturing sectors have adopted unnumerable changes to fight out the pandemic’s impact. This drives us to the focal point of having efficient manufacturing systems, and that’s where the concept of lean manufacturing takes centre stage.

The history & value of lean

History indicates the birth of lean manufacturing to 1980 in Japan, under the umbrella of Toyota Production System (TPS), a concept brought in by Taichi Ohno and Eiji Toyoda. Just in Time (JIT) and JIDOKA (autonomation), being the two basic pillars of TPS, focus on the development of a lean manufacturing approach to provide the customer with the best quality, working on the reduction of inefficiencies in the manufacturing process.

Toyota Production System (TPS), also referred to as the Toyota Way, has been implemented and followed across the globe not only by Japanese companies but many other organisations. The TPS banks on the four important principles:

  1. Long-term philosophy

  2. Right process and right products: Sometimes referred to as Rhyohin Joken

  3. People or human development: Invest, encourage and empower people

  4. Problem-solving approaches at all levels

Lean manufacturing encompasses the above principles with a concept of minimising waste and maximising productivity with an objective to deliver high value to the customer.

Lean is also defined as a systematic approach to identify and eliminate waste (non-value-added activities) through continuous improvement by flowing the product at the pull of the customer in pursuit of perfection.

Waste: The term ‘MUDA’ in Japanese means waste. Primarily, there are seven types of waste that are the focal points in lean manufacturing:

  1. Inventory

  2. Overproduction

  3. Over-processing

  4. Motion

  5. Waiting

  6. Transportation

  7. Rework (for defective parts)

  8. Unused talent (recent addition)

Elimination of waste revolves around the activities leading to the reduced lead time and meeting the customer needs much ahead of the market, creating a wow feeling in the customers. Activities of cost reduction and optimisation through streamlining of operations give the desired results.

Key principles: The following important aspects support the success story of lean manufacturing:

  1. Elimination of waste: In the process and supply chain

  2. Built-in quality: Zero defect approach to the next process

  3. Knowledge enhancement: Training and skill upgradation

  4. Employee empowerment: By teamwork, respect and involvement

  5. Speed: Delivering ahead of times

  6. Resources optimisation: Man, material and energy optimisation approach

The success of lean manufacturing comes from various manufacturing concepts. Here’s an insight into a few of them.

  1. 5S: The 5S is defined as a methodology that results in a clean, uncluttered, safe and well-organised workplace to help reduce waste and optimise productivity. It’s designed to help build a quality work environment. It is based on a framework that emphasises using a specific mindset and tools to create efficiency and value. It involves observing, analysing, collaborating and searching for waste and also involves the practice of removing waste.

  2. Value stream mapping: This is the process of studying the entire process flow and the supply chain to identify the wastes, inconsistencies, abnormalities, non-value-added works, duplication activities, etc and make an action plan for the elimination of waste & optimise the resources for efficiency improvement.

  3. Pull system: This system works on customer demand-based production and capacity planning. It promotes the production ignition based on customer pull or order bringing in the JIT scenario and is a key aspect of small lot productions. Production is based only on requirements, which is triggered by customer demand, through the Kanban system.

  4. Kanban: This is an essential tool that brings the pull system and JIT approach. Kanban in Japanese means signboard, which is a visual tool controlling and indicating the product or the part process flow.

  5. Continuous improvement: Kaizen is a Japanese terminology for continuous improvement. It’s about small and incremental changes in every process across all levels of employees. These can be spread in areas of safety, quality, cost reduction, productivity, etc. The improvements can be individual-based or as teamwork. Kaizen is promoted and followed in many companies as a motivational activity at the grass-root level. The same concept has spread across non-manufacturing sectors like banking, schools, etc.

  6. Single Minute Exchange of Dies (SMED): This is a process for dramatically reducing the time it takes to complete equipment changeovers. All activities related to reducing the MUDA of waiting take parallel actions to enhance changeover much faster and with shorter lead time between product changeovers. The SMED concept is based on the concept of ‘pit stop’ used in Formula 1 racing, wherein the four tyres of cars are changed in a few seconds with standardised activities, done with perfection. This is widely used in injection moulding, press shop & similar industries, where die changes are done in less than a minute.

  7. Visual management: Lean manufacturing metrics, such as lead time, cycle time, throughput, rejections, productivity and cumulative flow help organisations measure the impact of their improvement efforts. The process of collecting, analysing, visualising and acting through displays on board and monitors across the Gemba (shop floor) is a common practice in lean systems.

  8. Built-in quality: Rhyohin Joken (good condition for a good product) is a built-in quality concept, which relies on establishing complete poka-yoke from raw materials to finished products, including the skill of man to overcome any errors and produce a non-defective part. All the controllable factors of the process shall be made mistake-proof (by poke-yoke system) to avoid any defect outflow to the next process.

  9. Standardisation: The success of TPS lies in the strong platform of standardisation concepts or establishing standards and practising them. TPS emphasises identifying the specific standards of each & every process and follow them to ensure repeatability and, therein, bring reliability to the process. Every action in Gemba is based on careful validation of the process parameters and establishing the same for mass production. Every member, at all levels, is trained to follow the standards from the shop floor to the top management.

  10. Nichijo Kanri (daily management): The important aspect of a systems’ sustenance is about the ways of shop floor management, wherein daily management is the key. The NK concept talks about identifying specific activities (quality systems, poka-yoke systems, etc) of the day (Monday to Friday) to be carried out in respective areas with time and member responsibility; thereby, the system management can be monitored effectively. Its review shall be done by the engineers, managers and plant heads as well. It’s about the maintenance and sustenance of standard work procedures and systems.

  11. Genchi Genbutsu: Go and see yourself. This practical approach of Japanese companies, where the members of the top management are encouraged to go to the work area to see, check and identify areas of improvement, is a powerful tool in the implementation of the lean system. The visual management, poka-yoke approach, pull system, etc, all need careful review and monitoring at periodic intervals. At the same time, whenever any abnormalities happen, the responsible person rushes to the spot of the incident/abnormal area, etc, to understand the situation, give direction suggestions and take actions.

This term was coined by Taichi Ohno at Toyota Motor Corporation to enable understanding the reality of the situation.

Lean supply chain management: In lean thinking, one key to eliminate waste is to make sure that the product or service has a complete and uninterrupted flow. Carefully designed flow across all parts of a supply chain will minimise waste and increase value to the customer. The use of technologies, like RFID tags, IoT, etc, has been at the forefront of establishing the lean principles across the entire supply chain, not only in the manufacturing process but also in the process of supplier partners. Handholding of suppliers and supplier development is important in establishing an effective and smooth flow, with the least inventory and quality products. Lean supply chain practices include examining their routings and their bills of materials, which is an extensive list of raw materials, components and assemblies required to construct, manufacture or repair a product or service.

It’s always a challenge when it comes to implementing good manufacturing practices, and lean is no exception. Many organisations have understood and implemented lean manufacturing but have been struggling to sustain the same. Therefore, it’s important for us to have a specific roadmap to have an efficient and effective lean manufacturing organisation.

The key steps in transforming a company to the lean approach are:

  • Establishing a steering team — Conduct a strategic planning session

  • Training the steering team and the model line team in the disciplines of lean

  • Performing Process Flow Analysis (PFA)

  • Identifying value streams — Select a value stream

  • Value stream mapping the model line — Assemble the current state map

  • Balancing the line — Assign the standard work

  • Establishing standard WIP (inventory levels)

  • Testing the system (virtual cell) — document the results

  • Conducting 5S event — Apply TPM techniques

  • Establishing visual signals — Reduce paperwork

  • Exploring alternative flow patterns

  • Developing block layout

  • Developing detailed layout

  • Executing the final layout

  • Following PDCA approach and test for three months

Lean for growth

Lean manufacturing is a methodology that can help streamline and improve manufacturing processes or other services in order to provide enhanced benefits for customers while saving time & money by eliminating waste. As a methodology, lean is best applied across the entirety of an organisation, with continual monitoring and improvements being applied, with the support of employees at all levels. A strong, efficient shop floor with simple, lean management practices lay the foundation for the company to be flexible enough to accept new challenges. New technology integrations will bring in an exponential growth of the organisation and contribute to a better economy of the nation.

Image Gallery

  • In lean thinking, one key to eliminate waste is to make sure that the product or service has a complete and uninterrupted flow

    In lean thinking, one key to eliminate waste is to make sure that the product or service has a complete and uninterrupted flow

  • B Thej Kumar
 Associate Vice President
Toyoda Gosei South India

    B Thej Kumar

    Associate Vice President

    Toyoda Gosei South India

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