5/19/15 9:00 AM
Lean manufacturing is one of the most popular buzzwords in the manufacturing industry today, but plenty of experienced managers don’t really know what it means.
While it’s true that many of the concepts of lean manufacturing have been around for years, there are elements of lean manufacturing that reduce costs by implementing new technology and software. These are the most important lean manufacturing tools that you can focus on in your facility:
For many facilities, this is the biggest cost that goes into production, but it can also be one of the easiest to control. This is especially true for domestic manufacturing facilities, because so many products require skilled labor. Controlling this cost doesn’t always mean cutting back on your employees, it simply means that your facility will use the employees you have in the most efficient way possible. Minimizing overproduction and time lost due to planning and scheduling inaccuracies can be an important factor.
While your raw material cost is most likely essentially fixed, there are a lot of ways to control waste. For example, by assigning work to the most skilled employee you can reduce the cost of scrap. Also, by creating stable and precise schedules you can purchase material more just-in-time to cut back on inventory. Being on top of your material costs is essential to maximizing margins.
Long gone are the days when equipment costs could be calculated by dividing the cost of a piece of equipment by its expected lifetime. Today’s complicated CNC machines, robots and printers can be configured to produce hundreds of products at varying speeds. Determining the true cost of upgrading or repairing equipment can take weeks of study. Fortunately, there are a variety of technological options to help. One way to make the most of your equipment investments is to carefully plan preventive maintenance to lengthen the effective life of the equipment and achieve high product quality.
The smallest differences in the price of materials, labor, or overhead costs can mean a huge difference on the bottom line. For this reason, many modern production facilities are turning to software programs that control the entire production and transportation process. This is particularly critical for companies that complete work at multiple facilities, since the computer network can instantly compensate for issues at any of the company’s locations as well as improving coordination between facilities for lean manufacturing.