Lean manufacturing is an important process improvement tool that formally or informally has made its way onto virtually every manufacturing floor in the 21st Century. If you aren’t familiar with it, it is the simple concept of eliminating steps or actions that do not bring value to the end user or customer. Take out these steps and your operation will run more efficiently and you should increase profits.
Sometimes it is easy to spot these non-value steps and at other times they are buried in the marrow of the operation. Worse yet when the company’s own culture protects these steps as part of an ancient ritual or that it is protecting someone’s job. Take for an example a gate valve remanufacturer who, due to the oil price crash, has had to lay-off more than half their work force. They were still doing back spotfacing that incorporated a secondary operation. This required the operator to stop machining a hole to assemble and disassemble a tool. This operation took valuable time away from making chips and actually put the operator at some risk. With a reduced workforce they were pressured to re-evaluate their process. Thinking Lean, management decided to leverage an automatic back spot facer alled teh Autofacer that opens and closes mechanically eliminating the costly secondary operation. This sped up the cycle time and allowed the reduced work force meet their production goals.
Heeding a lean concept of eliminating the unnecessary secondary operation the company saw a 280% speed improvement in the back spot facing cycle and that translated directly to increased profits and delivery schedules being met. If they had a risk management consultant on hand she would have told them that their liability risk had gone down due to the new tool. How? By eliminating a costly secondary operation they eliminated the risk to the operator.
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