LEAN Implementation / Production Boards

 What is LEAN? Why should I consider LEAN principles in my business?

 Definition of LEAN as describe by Wikipedia:

Lean manufacturing or lean production, often simply "lean", is a systematic method for the elimination of waste ("Muda") within a manufacturing system. Lean also takes into account waste created through overburden ("Muri") and waste created through unevenness in work loads ("Mura").

To summarize, a LEAN system will help you maximize profits by eliminating waste and identify and eliminate bottlenecks created by uneven workloads.

Elimination of Waste / Tracking Production

In many manufacturing companies where a product is being built, there is an assembly line where the product is moved from one worker to the next. Each worker assembles part of the product and then it is passed on to the next worker.

In our experience, we have found that these workers have no way to determine their production level. Sure, they may have a daily goal of units produced, but no real way to determine if they are on track or behind schedule. The clock hits 3:00 PM and a line manager will come by and say, "We have only built 10 units today and our target is 15, looks like everyone is going to work overtime today" or "You guys need to pick it up, you are holding up the end of the line."  Meanwhile, the worker has been working hard all day and has no idea that he is behind or what his goal even is. Worse yet, many times one worker will have too much to do, while the worker next to him is constantly waiting on the next unit. 

This leads to dissension in the ranks and causes a rift between workers and line managers and even line managers and upper management.  Line workers are being asked to be more productive when times are really good and production is busy, and then they are being asked to eliminate waste and be more efficient when production is slow.

A workers productivity level has very little to do with the worker himself.   The worker's initiative or drive helps but it is just a small part of a giant puzzle. 

“The productivity of work is not the responsibility of the worker but of the manager.”  Peter F. Drucker (American Educator and Writer, b.1909)

So if we can recognize that a worker only has so much control of how much work he can accomplish in a work day, then we can start to identify possible solutions to increase PRODUCTION overall. This is not a worker issue, it becomes a PRODUCTION issue. 

Production Baseline

So the first step to accomplish is to determine how many units you currently produce and determining a well defined and attainable target production level. This is the goal everyone is shooting for and should be well publicized.

Production Boards  

Productions boards are the single biggest way to increase production. The use of production boards gives everyone (line workers, line managers, and upper management) a visual obvious display showing current goals, current status, and any current issues that need to be addressed.

Station / Worker Cycle Time Tracking

Cycle time is the time it takes for a worker to finish one 'cycle'. The goal is usually for the cycle time to be the same for each station in order to minimize bottlenecks. 

Production Tracking and Reporting

No solution is complete with a way to record, monitor, and visualize the data. A good lean system will incorporate a backend database with a reporting module to allow production managers the ability to view the data in several formats and reports.

Improve Efficiency through Automation

A final way to improve efficiency and thus production is through the use of automation. This is not about replacing workers with robots.

Possible solutions:

  • Tying into existing PLC systems to collect assembly line or other machine data
  • The use of bar codes or RFID tags to track inventory from receiving to assembly line
  • Call for help buttons for parts or maintenance
  • Pick to Light system to insure the correct part is used or kitted.
  • Preventive Maintenance monitoring such as monitoring for failing motors, loss of hydraulic pressure, etc. to catch failing systems before a shutdown.
  • Automation interlocks to prevent tasks from being done out of order. For example, if a bolt has to be tighten to a certain torque prior to a cover being placed, there can be an interlock added to make sure the torque was hit.

Interested in how you can implement LEAN principles in your manufacturing process? Please give us a call, we would love the opportunity to discuss possible solutions.

“The most important thing in communication is to hear what isn't being said. -Peter Drucker


 “Efficiency is doing things right; effectiveness is doing the right things.” -Peter Drucker


“Unless commitment is made, there are only promises and hopes; but no plans.” -Peter Drucker


“Time is the scarcest resource and unless it is managed nothing else can be managed.” -Peter Drucker


The best lean manufacturers use an ample number of status boards to provide a clear sense of progress. - Lean Thinking in the Warehouse