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Lean manufacturing focuses on maximising customer value and eliminating waste. Waste in this scenario are tasks that absorb time and resources but don’t add value to the customer or the business.
There are a lot of methods that can be used to help with improving productivity within a business. In this blog, I’m going to be talking about the more popular techniques which you can use within your business.
PDCA stands for ‘Plan, Do, Check and Act. This is a four-step management method, which focuses on identifying and solving problems as quickly as possible. You start by planning an objective or goal that you have in mind. You then complete the work you set in your plan and once the work is complete, check your results. Act to fix any results that didn’t turn out the way you planned.
PDCA can be useful to use when tackling issues which may be difficult to troubleshoot, or when something has multiple root causes.
The Five Why’s are used most when trying to identify the cause of a relatively straight forward problem. Each time you ask ‘why’ a problem has occurred, you’re one step closer to figuring out what happened. It’s been known that if you ask ‘why’ enough times, you’ll get to the root cause of the problem. For example:
Tom ran a red light because he was late for work. He was late for work because he woke up late. He woke up late because his alarm clock didn’t go off. His alarm clock didn’t go off because he didn’t set an alarm. He didn’t set the alarm because he forgot to do it last night before he went to bed. So if he were to check his alarm clock before he went to bed, he would have noticed that he didn’t set the alarm. If you keep asking why, you’ll eventually get to the root of the problem.
Continuous flow simply means that once production has launched, it doesn’t stop moving. Compare it to making pizza. When you work in batches, you make 9 pizzas at the same time and then send it out to the customers. When it’s a continuous flow, you’re keeping focused on the one pizza until it’s been delivered to your customers.
Continuous flow is really handy for when you want to reduce inventory costs and the wait times of your work items.
Takt Time can work very well alongside continuous flow. It’s the rate at which a product needs to be completed by, so it meets the customer’s needs. In basic terms, your Takt Time is the rate at how often your business sells products. For example, if your business has a Takt Time of three days, then you will need to finish producing a product every three days as it’s an average for when a customer purchases your product. You can calculate the Takt Time by dividing the available time by the rate of customer demand.
The Five S’s are put in place to make sure that your workspace is kept organised, tidy and clean. By keeping your workspace tidy, it’s supposed to maintain high productivity levels and improve safety in the workplace.
The first ‘S’ stands for sort. You want to go through all the tools, furniture, equipment etc. to make sure that they’re where they’re supposed to be, and if they’re needed there at all. You will need to sort through and remove anything which doesn’t belong there.
The second ‘S’ stands for set in order. Once you’ve gotten rid of the clutter, you can focus on putting things back in a place where they can be accessed easily and you’re going to remember where they are. It will also allow you to make use of the space that you may have after getting rid of the clutter. You will need to think about what workstations use what items, when the items are used and where is the most logical place to put these items.
The third ‘S’ stands for shine. Shine focuses on the cleaning up of each working area. Yes, this means to sweep, mop, wipe down surfaces and put tools away after they’ve been used. Shine also means to keep on top of performing maintenance regularly on equipment and machinery that your business may use.
The fourth ‘S’ stands for standardise. Once the first 3 s’ have been done, most businesses will think ‘OK that’s done, we can get on with our work.’ They have to realise that if you use the 5S, you have to standardise it and incorporate it into a monthly/seasonal routine. You can’t let things slide to how they were before, otherwise you’re going to be back in the same position you were in before you started the 5S.
Make it a standard procedure. Create schedules for when people should be using the 5S because you might see a difference in how your employees are working when they’re in a tidy environment.
The fifth ‘S’ stands for sustain. Once these standard procedures have been put in place, you need to maintain these procedures and update them if necessary. Sustain will mean to keep these procedures running as smoothly as possible, but also getting everyone in the business involved. Your goal is to make 5S a long-term program, not just a one-off project.
The tools that I have mentioned are just a handful of those that you can implement into your business. By bringing these tools and methods into your workplace, it will improve your manufacturing performance and improve efficiency within your work team. If you have any questions or queries, please get in touch, we would love to hear from you!