The name of this blog is the lean submariner. Most of the stories I write are based on leadership and submarines because those are my passions. But I am afraid for my country. Without embracing new strategies and new methods, we will lose the rest of our manufacturing capability at the very time we may need it. The part about history you must remember is that our strength in wars past has been our manufacturing capability to overcome our enemies. Once you have lost the capacity to produce what is needed, you become a servant to those who have not. Lean Manufacturing is a key and critical component to return us to the fore front.
What is Lean Manufacturing/Lean Production?
Lean techniques are the systematic identification and elimination of waste (80%), and the implementation of the concepts of continuous flow and customer pull. The benefits that are often achieved using lean production systems are 50% lower production costs, 50% less personnel on existing processes which allows for better reallocation in new product lines or services, 50% less time to field new products, higher quality, higher profitability, higher system flexibility, and more… However, by continually focusing on waste reduction, there are very few limits to the benefits that can be achieved.
Five general areas drive lean manufacturing/production: cost, quality, delivery, safety, and morale. Just as mass production was recognized as the principle production system of the 20th century, lean production is viewed as the key success production system of the 21st century.
What is the Lean Enterprise?
The ‘Lean Enterprise’ encompasses the entire production system, beginning with the customer, and includes the product sales outlet, the final assembler, product design, and all tiers of the supply chain (to include raw material mining and processing). Any truly ‘lean’ system is highly dependent on the demands of its customers and the reliability of its suppliers. No implementation of lean manufacturing can reach its full potential without including the entire ‘enterprise’ in its planning.
What are the elements of Lean Manufacturing?
The basic elements of are waste elimination, continuous one-piece workflow, and customer pull. When these elements are focused in the areas of cost, quality, and delivery, this forms the basis for an effective lean production system.
Key Lean Definitions
Value – From the perspective of the customer, those aspects or features of our products they are willing to pay for.
Value-added – Those production steps that transform raw materials directly into the features for which the customer assigns value.
Non-Value Added – Anything you do that the customer is not willing to pay for (MOre commonly called “waste”
5 Why’s – a simple technique, used to reveal the ‘root cause'(as opposed to symptoms) of a problem. The technique asks ‘why’ the symptom
occurred, ‘why’ the situation which allowed the symptom exists, and so on, until the root cause is finally discovered. Eliminating the root cause prevents the symptom from ever occurring again. If it does occur, the root cause was not properly addressed.
HINT – if your ‘5 Why’ exercise always seems to be pointing to ‘operator error’ as the root cause, you are probably going down the wrong path. Operators only do what our production systems allow them to do, so the root cause is in our systems, not our workers.
In this ever competitive world, the question is, can America compete any more?
The answer is not only we can, but we must. We truly invented modern manufacturing and have watched it steadily erode away because of our own selfishness and divisions. Management and labor both have their own share of the blame. If we are ever going to get out of the economic mess we are in now, it will require a true sense of partnership.
The days of outlandish demands on either side are over. Standing on a platform and calling your fellow stakeholders names will only ensure two things: your voice will eventually be gone and so will the business you depend upon to make your living. Class warfare has never worked and never will. It weakens us as a society and allows our enemies to take the lead over us. Any leaders who promote this warfare are not leaders at all.
Lean manufacturing requires partnership between all of the participants. It is the only way to carve the fat out of the business processes we have now and gain the ultimate reward: a return to world-class leadership and innovation. We either compete or we will end up being nothing more than sellers and buyers of other people’s goods in a greatly reduced society.