Just-in-Time Production: Just the Basics

Kanban manufacturing bins

When trying to improve the efficiency of a facility there are many different options to consider. For decades now, one of the best options is to implement just-in-time (JIT) production strategies. This is a concept that was originally started by the Toyota Motor Company as a key component of their Toyota Production System. This strategy has changed the way large-scale production was handled by many corporations. It is also one of the things that helped …

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The Third 5S Pillar: Shine

5S Shine

You eliminated clutter with Sort, and you organized with Set in Order, now it’s time to sanitize with Shine. The third step of the 5S methodology, Seiso or Shine, is a complete cleaning of the work cell. It is important to be thorough with the dusting, shining, sweeping, polishing, and maintaining of the space. A clean workplace is a safer workplace, and this phase will help you achieve that. Not only will the sanitization help …

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Using Kaizen with Kanban

Using Kaizen with Kanban

Kanban, translated to mean visual card or sign, is an extremely helpful too for manufacturing facilities that use pull systems or the Just-In-Time system. A kanban system utilizes visual communication and works to avoid overproduction and excess inventory, but it is a concept that can be a little tricky to dive into. In order to use kanban effectively, it is important to understand a few other related concepts. Kanban is an inventory system that is …

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“Morale” of the Story

workers waiting for respect
2 min read

Often times in continuous manufacturing improvement activities, only the machines and processes get the focus and the people are slapped back on the production line with little more than new instructions or even added responsibilities. When people are continuously dealing with alterations in what they are told to do and how to do it, it can become demeaning; you are changing the way they do their job that they have done everyday for possibly years. All of their skills and learned tricks for their job may have just been thrown out the door or replaced. An employee can feel replaceable or mistreated in this case, which lowers morale. It isn’t hard to believe that low morale leads to low productivity, lapses in concentration, and increased unplanned absences. All of these factors hurt your capacity, decrease safety, dampen improvement initiatives, and cause a void between management and labor. Therefore, high morale is important in any company for continued success and improvement.

Transparency and incorporation in the improvement process is key for maintaining higher morale. With transparency, at the very least, the employee gains exposure to the reasons why their responsibilities are changing. Accommodating the workers in this way can give them a sense of importance and

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Lean Way to the Danger Zone

Dangerous Path
3 min read

Looking for motivation on industry topics, I searched around various sites and stumbled across an article on lloyds.com called Building Supply Chain Resilience. The article brought up something that I hadn’t written about yet; lean manufacturing, like most engineering decisions, has risks. This article specifically refers to the natural disasters in 2011 that left large businesses crippled and the negative effects that lean principles have in such cases.

The crippled, or even destroyed, businesses were suppliers for other businesses and manufacturing facilities, which then sell their finished goods to retailers. The effects of disasters reach deeply into the affected industries. Lean manufacturing principles, specifically just-in-time (JIT) production, emphasizes low inventory levels of raw materials, work-in-process, and finished goods so as to minimize costs. For companies that are in the affected disaster area, JIT is ideal because it means losses were minimized. However, if you practice JIT production, what happens when your supplier unexpectedly shuts down or is destroyed by a natural disaster?

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Customer Satisfaction Guaranteed

Inventory Auditor
3 min read

I recently discovered an article by Beau Groover that outlines his less-than-ideal experience in a government office process. He notes that at one point he was “almost three hours into this process and had accomplished absolutely nothing.” While Groover is clearly experienced in process improvement and has a trained eye for seeing that his experience wasn’t favorable, the general populous would also find this experience distasteful. It doesn’t take an expert to know that you are unhappily accomplishing nothing and wasting time. At the end of the article, he correctly concludes that the customer should be kept in mind when process development and improvement. It’s true, the customer is the most important part of business. The customer is the driving force behind why your business exists and the goal of your business should be to please the customer and improve ways of doing so.

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“No Problem” is a Problem

Managerial problems
2 min read

Most people don’t like problems and will make an effort to avoid them. More importantly, if there is a problem, nobody really enjoys admitting it, especially if that person is directly responsible for it. Managers may feel this way about the processes that they supervise. Managers shouldn’t shun problems. Shunning problems leads problems to be hidden and remain unsolved. It is a false conception that they are better off if there aren’t any problems. In this case, the only problems that are solved are the ones that can’t be hidden, such as

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Building Lean Muscle

2 min read

While I was in school I remember hearing a story from a fellow student who had an internship with a company overseas. She helped them start to implement a variety of lean processes, but wasn’t able to stay long enough to see it through. A few months later, she checked in with the company to see how things went. They told her that everything went great and all of the time they were saving in their improved processes allowed them to save a bunch of money in wages. Well, that is just a way of saying that they

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The “Lean Pill” Side Effects

Carpenter's tools
3 min read

I stumbled across an article called Lean and Sick by Praveen Gupta. Gupta points out his gripes with lean systems, “Lean has become more of displaying numbers, reorganizing the floor and such, but still most businesses shrink as there is little focus on customers and not much impact on growth.” He has a good point. Lean does in fact help display

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Failure to Explore Failure

Exploring-failure
3 min read

Did you hear about the forest fire in South Washington caused by a diesel particulate filter (DPF) in late 2011, but was still under investigation? Well, it turns out that the DPF was indeed the culprit and actually adds danger to already hazardous situations.

An article by DieselNet on October 7, 2011 outlines the situation and its massive damage: “The fire started on September 7, 2011, and burned southeast through forested canyons and flat areas with dry grasses. The fire—mapped to cover an area of 3,600 acres (1,460 ha)—destroyed more than 100 structures, including

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