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7 Ways to Tell if Your Manufacturing Process is Truly “Lean”

leanmachiningLean manufacturing has been around for quite a while, and many manufacturers have embraced the philosophy of continuously looking for ways to eliminate waste in their processes. However, the true meaning of Lean involves much more than automating an activity or streamlining an operation, as important as those things are. So here are 7 questions to ask yourself about your Lean program.

1. How do you define “value”? At the heart of Lean is the recognition that, from the customer’s point of view, value is any activity the customer is willing to pay for. It’s critical, therefore, that you identify these valued items and be certain you are meeting customer expectations.

2. Have you carefully mapped the value stream? Once you’ve determined what it is the customer values, you must look at every activity in the process and determine where improvements can be made. If the customer doesn’t see tangible value in an activity, it becomes a target for improvement or elimination.

3. Are you personally in touch with the process? It’s not enough to tell your workers that they should look for ways to improve processes. Management needs to regularly walk the floor looking for opportunities. Equally important, management must set an example for the rest of the organization by demonstrating that they are committed to Lean principals.

4. Are you collecting and analyzing data? Without good information, how do you identify issues that need attention? Just because your machine tool control, like the Okuma OSP, is capable of tracking and reporting process data, such information isn’t helpful unless you analyze the results and take appropriate actions.

5. Have you established Lean metrics? Data is most useful when you can use it to measure against established standards. Just as a part must conform to the customer’s tolerances, your manufacturing results should be judged against the parameters you establish.

6. Have you taken Lean beyond the shop floor? Lean applies to every component of your business. The shop may be doing a great job of continuous improvement, but if the rest of the organization hasn’t embraced the concept, you could be saddled with unnecessary overhead. Take a look at quoting, project management, invoicing and other functions for opportunities to streamline.

7. Do you need additional expertise? Performing Lean manufacturing well may require training and consultation from professionals or other companies who have successfully implemented the process. In the same way Gosiger can help provide insights into how applying manufacturing and automation technologies will enhance productivity and improve workflow as part of your Lean program.