Lean Concepts for SMB Manufacturing Firms

In today’s business climate, operating a manufacturing facility with a lean focus is more a necessity than an option. Developing a framework and culture around these principles is critical to increasing both response time and revenue. This is not always an easy task for smaller businesses that often lack the resources and knowledge to implement lasting fundamentals in manufacturing production. In these situations it is best to bring in people that have experience with lean concepts rather than attempting to go it alone.

Basics of Lean

Lean thinking in an organization refers to more than just one activity intended to change how a shop floor operates. Instead it implies that best practices will be introduced throughout the facility which will streamline multiple systems. It is rooted in the goals of reducing waste and adding value. Lean also promotes continuous improvement so that any gains made will continue to be built upon. This requires buy-in at all levels of the organization and involves personnel beyond operators and quality.

Eliminating Waste

Waste in the lean world applies to more than just scrap material going into the trash bin. While defect reduction is always a positive goal, other sources of waste in manufacturing can have a significant impact on efficiency and cost. Here are some categories that are typically targeted:

  • Excess movement
  • Inventory rotation
  • Overproduction
  • Waiting
  • Defect correction

Adding Value

Customers are not willing to pay for certain activities that are often part of any manufacturing process. This is the concept of value. Rework, excessive inspection and design inefficiency are all things that inhibit profit and the customer will not perceive value if asked to absorb those costs. Lean also focuses on detecting and reducing these non-value-added areas.

Creating a manufacturing space under lean conditions can be a challenge, but the benefits far outweigh the hurdles. The productivity gains and increased profits will enable your business to take the next step in the market.