Gaining Efficiency Using Lean Manufacturing Tools

Lean manufacturing tools are a growing and changing set of needs for any company trying to become more efficient.  It began with the Toyota Production System (TPS) and that is still the major key to anyone starting to understand what lean manufacturing is all about.  However, Lean Manufacturing has come to incorporate differences from the TPS system.  These refinements help improve the process that brought Toyota from an excellent company, to the biggest car supplier in the world.  Key quality assurance pieces have also been improved in the new Lean Manufacturing systems.

Definition of Lean Manufacturing Tools

The most simple way to describe lean manufacturing tools is by their desire to completely and totally eliminate waste from all operations.  The goal is to produce products on-time, with minimal resources used, little to no resources wasted, and a better cost then your competitors, and still a higher quality than your competitors.  Quality is relative to other products in your class.  It may cost more the produce a Lexus as opposed to a Toyota, but the goal is to be most efficient within the luxury car realm, and not compete with standard vehicle manufacturing.

Different Lean Manufacturing Tools

Lean manufacturing is a rather large umbrella that can cover many different types of efficiency systems.  Some of these lean manufacturing tools are Total Productive Maintenance (TPM), 5S Visual Workplace, Value Stream Mapping (VSM), Error and Mistake Proofing, Inventory and Lead Time Reduction, Standardized Work Instructions (SWI), and Self-Directed Work Teams.  These different lean tools are implemented in different ways, from hands on training to classroom training to team building exercises.

Lean Manufacturing Tools: Hands-on Training

Implementation via hands-on training is the best way to do things like SWI’s, Error and Mistake Proofing, and Inventory and Lead Time Reduction.  Simply using classroom learning about how to use these different lean manufacturing tools really is not enough for your people to become experts.  The classroom training is important , but having qualified trainers come in and take your people through the processes themselves makes implementation possible much more quickly.  You can learn these processes yourself, but implementation takes much longer and is more costly.  Bringing in the trainers is worth the expense in almost every situation.

Lean Manufacturing Tools: Classroom Training

The implementation of lean manufacturing tools is sometimes best done with classroom training.  Obviously, there will always need to be some hands-on usage to get better acquainted, but for items like 5S Visual Workplace, TPM, and VSM, classroom training is often the best way to implement.  As with the hands-on training, classroom training is best done by professional teachers.

Lean Manufacturing Tools:  Team Building Training

One of the better lean manufacturing tools is Self-Directed Work Teams.  With this, your people take full ownership of the changes that are needed.  These work teams get together and can help implement the changes very quickly.  The best way to implement these work teams is to begin with some team building exercises.  These exercises get your people to trust one another and to realize that you all are working on the same team.  Since often these work teams are cross functional, the people in them may have some competing desires, but in the end, everyone in the company should be focused on the customers and their needs.  Lean manufacturing tools like Self-Directed Work Teams created on the foundation of team building can help keep that focus where it belongs.