Lean Manufacturing

Dec. 21, 2004
Autloliv Production System (APS). Implementation of lean processes is absolutely essential to succeed. APS is modeled after the Toyota Production System with a strong emphasis on Six Sigma methods for solving complex problems. The discipline to improve daily by removing waste based on these principles is key to continued productivity improvement and elimination of problems/waste. One of the best measures of this is dock-to-dock inventory turns. You cannot have high long-term inventory turns without successfully solving problems in the value stream. We continue to improve here and still have a long way to go. It really never ends. -- Autoliv Steering Wheel/Airbag Facility, Columbia City, Ind.Make change part of the culture. Becoming and remaining competitive requires continuous improvement, which in turn requires continuous change. Transitioning an organization to accept continuous change as the norm is very difficult but critical to becoming and remaining competitive. We began by changing something that was already considered optimal: our assembly floor layout. We used kaizens as the methodology for these changes to encourage a larger, cross-functional group of associates to develop and implement the new processes and to make the change happen more quickly. Then, before the new layout was completely accepted, we changed it again. This reinforced the idea that improvements are incremental, not final, and that change would be continuous. At present, we have implemented at least five major changes to cell layouts, with minor improvements occurring regularly as a matter of course. We consistently communicated the link between change and competitiveness, and the corresponding benefits. This communication was reinforced by all levels of the General Cable organization and remained consistent through personnel changes in plant staff, and even the plant manager. Over time, the debate switched from whether change needed to occur to what change needed to occur. People began to request kaizens to address issues in their work cells, and even become frustrated that a kaizen was not planned for their cell soon enough. As market share grew, the link between change and competitiveness became more obvious. In some cases, there were short-term setbacks due to the pace of change. Tools and concepts were implemented before people completely understood them. Modifications were made that proved counterproductive. But, since the culture of change and participation had begun to take hold, the errors became obvious and the learning was used to create a better solution. What appeared to be short-term setbacks were actually long-term gains, as calculated risks accelerated improvement. -- General Cable Corp. -- Automotive Products, Altoona, Pa.Stay committed to the strategy. We aren't flashy. We don't do things because they look good or include the current buzzwords. Lean manufacturing is the system we have used to improve for more than five years. Lean was chosen because of its potential impact on performance, and it has allowed us to exceed even our own initial expectations. Within the last year, we have added the Six Sigma methodology to address gaps in performance that we felt could not be addressed by lean techniques. We have already begun to see improvements resulting from Six Sigma and the balance created when combined with lean. Lean and Six Sigma are powerful tools, but they are useless without diligent execution. Our goals were aggressive but realistic, backed by solid plans. We candidly assess our weaknesses and opportunities, and prioritize actions. We prioritize two or three major areas to improve, communicate those priorities consistently throughout the plant, and focus actions and resources on those priorities. Creating too many priorities, or not clearly communicating them, makes execution extremely difficult in a participative environment. -- General Cable Corp. -- Automotive Products, Altoona, Pa.Organize for lean. You cannot go truly lean with a functional organization. Focusing resources on product flow is much easier when they are dedicated to a portion of the flow, typically working in multiple functional capacities. For the majority of our lean transformation, manufacturing engineers and production control specialists were dedicated to particular portions of the value stream, usually a group of teams. This allowed those resources to focus on product, thinking about longer-term optimization, without being "matrixed" away, diluted or doing "quick hits." Only recently have production control specialist been realigned under the support value stream in order to realign the production control processes. Aligning leadership to the customer through value streams allowed us to maintain control over product, given stable infrastructure processes (shop floor control and MRP) without a layer of functional management that would have added unneeded cost. -- Lockheed Martin Maritime Systems & Sensors, Syracuse, N.Y.Study and implement lean manufacturing from the beginning. Make it part of your culture. Study the [Toyota Production System] or equivalent system and get people trained on its aspects as early as possible. Involve people from all levels and all areas within the facility to get the necessary buy-in and support to maintain a lean system. -- Dana Corp., Owensboro, Ky.Dana key strategies:
  • Teamwork, Teamwork, Teamwork: There is no substitute for it in lean manufacturing.
  • Measure what you are after.
  • Plan and prioritize, continuously.
  • Build quality into all processes: production, maintenance, production control, accounting, etc.
  • Never compromise safety or quality.
  • Balance people and automation to optimize flexibility and balance the work flow.
  • Build a learning organization to keep the focus on continuous improvement/kaizen in all processes.
  • Get people involved early on in the improvement processes.
  • Provide a challenging environment for people to grow and develop.
  • Celebrate and recognize milestones as you reach them
  • Do not be afraid to make tough or controversial decisions.
-- Dana Corp., Owensboro, Ky.

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