To remain competitive, manufacturers must utilize "lean manufacturing" — operating with maximum productivity and process efficiency, while generating quality products. Although establishing processes that support the lean manufacturing philosophy can be a challenge, finding improvements to those processes, with a reasonable return on the investment, is often the greater challenge.

Manufacturers should utilize methods such as process simulation modeling, achieving the manufacturing edge by using experienced process engineers who apply simulation techniques. Preserving value with less work can be accomplished through "lean" methods of design and problem solving.

Preserving Value with Less Work

Using a "lean design" approach, process simulation experts can analyze and suggest improvements much more quickly than someone using traditional techniques.

Utilizing process simulation (an analytical approach to modeling industrial and manufacturing processes), the engineer scrutinizes the tasks of the process flow — separately, concurrently or in conjunction with other processes and procedures — to understand the data and to determine problem resolution and better practices.

Analysis of materials, operations, handling and time factors can show the bottlenecks. Adjustments can then be made to the model, at which time the effect on the entire process is observed — often with surprising results.

Reducing Work in Process Inventory

Identifying and resolving the correct root cause of problems with distribution techniques, which have direct impact on Work in Process (WIP) inventorylevels, will reduce those levels.

Process modeling techniques, used with other techniques like root cause analysis, can identify and resolve inventory level issues.

For example, a manufacturer of original automotive equipment and after-market parts was experiencing increasing expense due to anomalies in their WIP process.

Consultants using traditional analysis of the operations recommended technically advantageous, but extensive, renovations to the plant. That approach yielded an ROI of more than two years, which was far longer than the manufacturer was willing to accept.

However, when other consultants utilized process simulation to perform the same analysis, the manufacturing bottlenecks were easily located.

The consultants' recommendation was simply to relocate the loading docks to points adjacent to where materials are used, without having to move major equipment.

The solution eliminated so much material handling that worker productivity increased more than 20% and yielded an ROI of less than one year.