Lean Manufacturing Certification Training Guide

Lean Implementation Tools

If you are responsible for implementing lean manufacturing, and have just completed lean training or lean manufacturing certification,  you might feel overwhelmed with where to start.  

Although there is no specific implementation methodology like there is with the six sigma DMAIC (Define, Measure, Analyze, Improve, Control), there are some common sense principles that should be implemented first.

Almost all lean implementations start with a technique called “5S”.   This is a method for workplace organization.   The 5S’s are an acronym for sort, set in order, shine, standardize, and sustain.    As a brief summary, the idea is to get the workplace in efficient order and clean any machinery to the point it looks and operates like new again.

Part of the process is to place every tool or item used in the process exactly in the best spot to be easily retrieved when needed.

 After 5S, usually a technique called Value Stream Mapping is used.   In reality, the VSM work is being developed while the 5S is being performed.  The value stream map is often done with a large white board or paper and completed with pencil or markers.   The process is mapped from start to finish, noting each process and the data from each, as well as the distance the product travels from one process to another.  Once the VSM is completed for the entire facility, it can be reviewed to “see” where the “waste” might be.   There are many “wastes” identified in lean manufacturing training , not just wasted material but wasted time, motion, or processing.     The VSM helps identify which processes have the most opportunity for improvement.

 Now looks at details for each process.  Gather data on setup times, average order quantity produced and shipped, demand, and pieces per hour.    The first thing to find out is if any of the product is produced and shipped to a warehouse.   If so, what is the average time the product sits in a warehouse, and what is the “reason” this is done.   Very often the reason is because it takes a long time to setup the process, and therefore the company wants to produce a large batch once the process is up and running.   If there were no set up time, why else would a company pay storage, handling, insurance, and other fees associated with warehousing.    If the setup time is the culprit, then one of the next lean tools to use is SMED (Single Minute Exchange of Die), which is a method used to reduce setup times.

 Even if there is no warehousing, if setup time is long compared to run time, a large cost savings could result by reducing the time.    Prior to lean, some companies figured setup time was an unavoidable cost.   Others justified it that customers were paying for it.   Either way, setup time is wasted time that could be used for producing parts.   However, don’t take this wrong and think you don’t want setups.    With lean implementations, companies will often reduce batch sizes and have more setups, but work to reduce the average setup time to single minutes.   In fact, there are some amazing documented setup reductions in automotive plants that cut setup time from several hours down to less than ten minutes.

 After the process is organized with 5s and setups optimized, it is time to improve the efficiency through a concept called Overall Equipment Efficiency (OEE).   OEE works to improve machine speed, small stops (time when the machine stops for brief periods), time producing poor quality, setup time again, and downtime. 

There are many great lean tools.   One of the best tools often used to improve OEE is total productive maintenance (TPM).   TPM is a process that is followed to improve machine capability to allow them to run more often at higher speeds with less downtime.

 There are many lean tools to use beyond these few to make the lean implementation successful.   These few are almost always used during a lean manufacturing implementation.