When a company decides to implement lean strategies it almost universally does it to increase the overall profit of the company.
There’s nothing wrong with this since profit is the driving force behind companies, but it can sometimes limit the ways people look at implementing lean strategies. Putting forth effort up front can often lead to significant savings down the road, and that’s where the idea of using lean to eliminate downtime comes in.
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In this case downtime is more than just time where people don’t have anything to do. It is actually an acronym for something much bigger:
D – Defects
O – Over-Production
W – Waiting
N – Non-Utilized Resources or Talent
T – Transportation
I – Inventory
M – Motion
E – Excess Production
Using this acronym it is possible to find great ways to use the lean strategies to reduce or eliminate one or more of the items from that list from a particular production step. By taking a close look at improvement opportunities throughout a production process or an entire facility it is possible to find significant areas where it is possible to save a lot of downtime, and thus improve the profitability of the company.
Looking At Downtime Differently
Many companies look at many of the items within the acronym as necessary evils for producing whatever products or services they are making. The fact is, however, that when you take a holistic approach to any type of manufacturing process it is almost always possible to improve it, even in some small way. Implementing just in time production standards, for example, can help reduce excess production as well as cut down on waiting, transportation and over-production.
While it is good to start the lean process by finding any obvious problems and getting them solved, the real value in this strategy is when you begin looking at smaller issues which may require more attention. When there is an issue which causes defects, for example, in one area the solution may be something that gets changed several steps prior in the production process.
It is not always as easy as simply finding obvious issues and getting them fixed, but fortunately the lean strategies are great ways at helping companies and individuals look at these types of things from a different perspective which often leads to great improvement.
Elimination of Waste
Eliminating downtime and waste, which are quite similar in many ways, is essential to any lean process. While it will undoubtedly seem difficult or nearly impossible at first the important thing is to take that first step. When people start out by fixing even just one small problem and eliminating a small amount of waste or downtime people will begin to gain confidence in the process so they will accept the challenge to find another small issue which can be fixed.
Whenever approaching a lean project to eliminate downtime it is key to get everyone on board and show them the true value of the program. It can’t simply be a series of speeches or clever acronyms, the lean implementation team needs to show the success their ideas can bring.