Lean Manufacturing aka Lean is a process of minimizing waste in production facilities caused primarily due to imbalance of workloads. Excess load on the system or under-utilization of production capacity often create a host of problems that tend to adversely affect the operations over time. While the concept of lean is primarily applicable to manufacturing industry, it can be successfully employed in any business setup to improve process efficiency and the bottom line as well.
Implementing Lean in a manufacturing unit requires in-depth knowledge of the concept and the experience to adapt it to address problems faced by different companies. Right from identifying potential areas of improvement and overcoming employee resistance, to formulating and implementing solutions and training staff for a smooth transition there are several steps involved in adopting Lean.
Lean Manufacturing Consultants are subject experts, who are also familiar with industry-specific best practices. They are trained professionals who can guide and supervise Lean implementation, enabling companies to successfully reap the benefits and sustain them as well.
How Consultants Can a Make a Difference When Going Lean
While small establishments may be able to improve performance efficiencies without availing professional services of lean consultants, larger manufacturing facilities having problems with adhering to production schedules or even those looking to optimize capacity utilization may do well to hire the services of a Lean Manufacturing Consultant. Here’s how and why they can make all the difference.
Identifying problem areas from within a manufacturing system is likely to be a tad challenging for employees who have been running the facility for a long time. Getting used to the way things are often makes it difficult to quickly detect deviations, identify root causes and eliminate them. Familiarity with a system makes it difficult to notice problems even if they stare you in the face.
A Lean Manufacturing Consultant is in fact trained to and excels at identifying possible reasons for the types of problems faced at a production unit. Consultants look at your system with fresh unbiased perspective and can easily point out any deviations from the standard/expected functionality or results that you normally tend to overlook.
Lean consultants are professionals who have a deep understanding of the Lean methodology and implementation experience as well. They specialize in detecting and eliminating waste, improving process efficiency, reducing costs, and improving the turnover of manufacturing facilities that find it difficult to manage their operations in an efficient and profitable manner.
Excess production, excess inventory, defective or inferior products, idle /down time of men and machines, redundant / lengthy processes, scrap and idle capacity are but some examples of waste commonly encountered in production units. Minimizing or totally eliminating them can pave the way for maximizing the resources on hand.
Wealth of Experience
Consultants are backed by the combined experience of multiple lean implementation projects that they have undertaken till date. They bring you the best of industry-specific lean solutions that have been beneficial for their clients and of course will necessarily tweak them or create new lean solutions to tackle the issues that plague your production facility.
The main benefit of hiring a lean consultant is that you have a dedicated expert resource to formulate a custom lean solution that best meets your requirements and aims to address bottlenecks at your facility. While hiring the services of an external consultant helps incorporate innovative tried and tested solutions, training an in-house consultant also proves equally effective. You always run the risk of tunnel vision when working with in-house experts!
Knowledge Sharing and Training
The success of Lean implementation largely depends on employee participation and co-operation. Your staff manning the shop floor as well as those in the different managerial cadres must fully understand and appreciate the concept and benefits of Lean manufacturing to embrace the transition. Consultants are the best people to introduce the concept, highlight its significance and explain how it can add value to the current system.
Very often the hard-earned benefits of lean implementation begin to lose charm once the consultant is through with his contract term. Management and staff must understand that ongoing improvements and refinements are necessary to sustain the benefits of lean and build on it. Training imparted by lean consultants is an important aspect of the implementation. Training on the concept as well as the new solutions and processes that have been put in place help people with transitioning to the lean mind set.
As a part of eliminating waste and sprucing up process efficiencies, it is but typical to automate repetitive manual processes wherever possible. This however does not always lead to job cuts, but definitely will change the way staff work. Some of them may need to assume multiple roles, shift to another role or even do their job a little differently than earlier. The insecurity and chaos arising from such changes are bound to trigger resistance from employees. Consultants can help effectively address the concerns of employees, earn and boost their confidence and morale as well.
When To Go Lean?
If you are wondering when exactly to opt for lean implementation, here are few pointers that can be of help, but do so only if you are fully prepared to commit to the cause. You and your staff must be convinced that the transition to lean is bound to be eventually beneficial irrespective of the minor hurdles that are common in the process.
If you are having performance efficiency issues, quality problems, bloated inventories, dissatisfied customers; struggling to control costs or seeing your revenues dwindling, it is time to take a close look at your tried and tested processes across different departments.
If your operations are already efficient and profitable and wish to further enhance returns, Lean manufacturing can still make a difference as there is always scope for improvement.
Avail the services of a reputed and experienced Lean consultant to get the best out of this widely adopted process.