Lean is a simple, effective way to run a manufacturing business. It reduces costs by managing production, increasing productivity, and reducing waste. Lean manufacturing principles can have a considerable impact on throughput times and waste. Therefore, applying lean manufacturing techniques could make a significant difference in your organization’s bottom line.
Here are five lean manufacturing techniques that can drastically reduce production costs and put your process back on track.
Use automation to reduce overproduction
Paper and manual systems create a ton of waste and inefficiencies, and waste equals cost. Whether it’s unnecessary production and excess inventory or mistakes with data entry and recordkeeping, the more manual processes you have, the more it can cost you.
When you automate, you reduce waste in these key areas:
- Extra work required to address interruptions, misunderstandings, or communications across touchpoints
- Costly compliance mistakes due to poor records or mismanaged specifications
- Overproduction due to insufficient data usage and lack of process control
Integrated systems with automation reduce human error and contribute to the data manufacturer’s need to predict and control inventory levels. It also provides the foundation for manufacturing on demand at a greater scale. Additive Manufacturing (AM) relies heavily on manual processes, so implementing automation creates almost immediate value.
Map the value stream
Mapping the value stream identifies areas where waste and inefficiencies occur, giving AM the chance to lean up processes. Value streams identify areas of major waste and improve everyone’s understanding of manufacturing processes, allowing departments to work together for innovation.
With greater efficiency and continuous improvement, Additive Manufacturers take less time trying out processes that fail and more time creating value for customers through continuous improvement.
What is a value stream?
A value stream begins with an initial concept and maps the steps and stages from that initial concept to delivery and support. Mapping this journey from beginning to end helps uncover inefficiencies and create opportunities for improvement.
Steps to the value stream
- Gather your team: Represent all your departments.
- Determine your process family: Find products and services that go through similar steps.
- Outline sequences for each process family: Create your physical flow chart.
- Fill in queue times: Define how long from start to finish.
- Fill in process data: Go beyond time, process, changeover, yields, etc.
- Walk the floor: The numbers must match the actual process. Don’t be fooled by sets of numbers divorced from physical production observation.
- Collect data: Spend time checking the expected values against what’s happening on the floor.
- Finalize your map: Prioritize change activities based on the largest potential impact.
The value stream isn’t just a pretty picture. It clearly outlines where bottlenecks or mistakes in the process happen so you can reduce them upon identification.
Consider Just-In-Time (JIT) manufacturing
JIT manufacturing eliminates excess inventory and labor by using a pull system. An order signals the supply and production sides to begin, reducing the need to store inventory and reserving materials for orders already made.
It requires a global communication hub and automation. A communication hub connects customers to the organization and teams to each other, allowing each production section to connect seamlessly. Automation reduces the labor required for manual processes and makes it easier to maintain margins even outside of mass production.
Include employee and team feedback
When you mapped your value stream, a key component was walking the floor. In the same vein, including employees and teams in the feedback processes ensures that you have a realistic—not just theoretical—idea of how your processes move. Your employees are your eyes on the ground and bring various experience areas to the table. When they are part of the process, it solidifies buy-in for lean manufacturing models. This feedback forms the basis for continuous improvement and identifies areas of inefficiency, even when it’s not immediately apparent.
All feedback should flow to a central hub to ensure proper recordkeeping and chain of responsibility.
Adopt continuous improvement
Lean isn’t a one time project, nor does it happen in a vacuum. Lean manufacturing is a company-wide principle designed to test every aspect of the pipeline. Companies that implement the concept of continuous improvement find ways to make small changes that drive large impact and survive disruptions. In other words, they create maximum value with minimum effort.
Use change management to shift from standard, traditional manufacturing to lean operations. Lean systems facilitate innovation, allowing manufacturers to provide greater value for customers and in return, better ROI on those offerings. By making small changes and testing to ensure maximum success, AM teams better understand what customers need.
Continuous improvement impacts the cost of AM because it ensures that manufacturers follow best practices at all times. There’s no chance to get entrenched in old, inefficient practices, and it also reduces the blind spots that create waste.
Boost your bottom line with Lean manufacturing techniques
A manufacturing process has plenty of room for improvement. Lean techniques can reduce waste and encourage innovation through better communication and collaboration. If manufacturing companies can implement these lean techniques as an overall company culture, they’ll improve productivity, a huge boost for an industry that works on razor-thin margins.
The biggest challenge of implementing lean is the buy-in from employees and departments used to doing things the traditional way. By using the right tools and technology, these changes can happen without extra hassle or the need for exhaustive training. Bluestreak | Bright AM’s software makes implementing these lean techniques easier. It’s time to make the switch.
When your quality control process needs improvement, you’re wasting time and money. You are also putting future business at risk, and we know how small of an industry this can be. Dissatisfied customers tend to spread the word to their colleagues, which can hurt future sales. Recognize the warning signs and take action today by contacting Bluestreak | Bright AM.
If your service includes Additive Manufacturing, we provide specific solutions in our Bluestreak | Bright AM software. To request an Additive Manufacturing software demo, click here!