Manufacturers that wish to remain competitive are seeking ways to reduce costs and increase overall efficiency. The concept of lean manufacturing is proving to be highly effective in reducing waste. Focusing attention on the elimination of waste as a means of better operation involves five basic principles.
Sorting – Categorize things so that each step is clearly defined.
Order – Organize things into a specific order.
Daily Maintenance – Watch over things on a daily basis.
Standardization – Create specific standards to follow.
Sustainability – Sustain the process over the long term.
A quality waste reduction plan begins with top management getting together to discuss areas where there can be improvement. Teams can be formed to handle various topics. Each part of the business is scrutinized. Costs analysis can be done to determine how much money is being spent each step of the manufacturing process.
Questions about the way things are done are encouraged. Just because something has always been done a certain way does not mean it cannot be improved. Look for new methods and materials that make things easier and cheaper.
Problems are always popping up that require smart solutions. The lack of a good problem solving system creates logjams and slows down production. Create ways to empower workers on the line to immediately report problems when they arise. Ask workers for ideas on how to solve problems. Workers and management can put their heads together to come up with viable fixes without completely shutting down.
Eliminate Extra Steps
There are points in the process where it might take ten steps to complete a project. Examine if all of these step are really necessary. Research new methods that reduce the amount of steps needed to complete the same task.
Redundancy is a big money waster in the entire manufacturing business. Employees are repeating the same steps in different parts of the operation. Get a full accounting of tasks done by each worker. Weed out redundant tasks by assigning specific responsibilities to each person.
Establish safeguards throughout the manufacturing process. Ensure that safety measures are done regularly. Workers should follow all company protocols for completing each task. Hold everyone accountable for following guidelines.
There may be ways to speed up the manufacturing process by cutting out steps that are unnecessary, adjusting machines, rearranging the warehouse, etc.
There are many ways to reduce expenses in packaging costs. Take a fresh look at current packaging design and determine if changes can be made. Consider smaller, lighter packaging. Find cheaper packaging resources and vendors without compromising quality.
Handling and Hauling
See if there are ways to reduce the amount of product handling time within the warehouse. Explore ways to cut shipping costs by renegotiating contracts or using alternative methods.
Institute a comprehensive recycling program throughout the business. Any type of material that can be recycled should be included. Plan out how materials are to be collected, stored and picked up from the facility. Set up a recycling schedule and get employees on board.
Nothing is ever set in stone when it comes to waste reduction plans. Encourage management and employees to contribute ideas on how to be leaner. Hold brainstorming sessions. One great idea could end up saving the company a lot of money.
Once there is a waste reduction program in place it is important to continue monitoring it for effectiveness. There will probably be some things that work and do not work. Certain processes may need tweaking. Reward employees who excel at following the new guidelines.