If you own a business that requires the production and processing of productions, you probably wish to eliminate waste and increase efficiency as much as possible. Thus, in the late 1940s, two Japanese industrial engineers Shigeo Shingo and Taiichi Ohno. From the Toyota car manufacturing company developed an efficient production method that later was termed lean manufacturing or lean management. The concept behind lean management is to reduce unnecessary wastes such as wait times and unused inventory to speed up the production process.
Read more The Five Pillars of Lean Manufacturing
11 Lean Management Tools Essential For Your Business
Managers can take up many lean tools to increase a business’s productivity and make them more efficient. This article explores some of them in detail.
1. Just in Time
Used by the Toyota engineers during the development of the lean technique, Just in Time is a tool that only produces a particular only when a customer calls for, as per customer specifications about the quantity and quality. The idea behind Just in Time originated from American supermarkets, where Japanese engineers noticed that a shelf is only filled when the stock for a product runs out. This prevents the formation of large stock that remains unused in the warehouse – costing the company money and other resources required for the maintenance in stock.
2. “Takt” Time
Deriving from the German word for ‘pulse’, Takt Time is concerned with identifying the maximum amount of time that a product takes to be produced whilst meeting a customer’s demand. Takt Time aims to deliver the right product to the right customer at the right time, eliminating as much waste as possible. It creates a continuous flow in the production line. Allowing managers to identify and analyze the synchronization of the production line itself.
3. The 5S Method
The 5S Method is an organization method in the production line, and consists of 5 key points each starting with the English and Japanese letter for ‘S’. It consists of the following:
- Sort (Seiri) – which sorts items based on their necessity in a factory.
- Straighten (Seiton) – which ensures that the sorted items are always in the right place for ease of access.
- Standardize (Seiketsu) – which ensures that factory standards are met.
- Shine (Seiso) – which is concerned with the cleanliness of the factory. Rids the factory of dirt, dust and waste products.
- Sustain (Shitsuke) – which ensures that the habits and standards set are met in the long term.
The PDCA is another lean tool often used by managers to identify problems and make changes. It comprises of 4 steps: Plan, Do, Check, and Act. The idea behind PDCA is to plan any change required within the production line. Test the change on a small scale, check how well the test had worked out for the company’s production and then finally, decide on an action based on the results.
Another tool popularized by the Toyota Production System. Kaizen is concerned with the involvement of all employees related to the production process in attempting to improve the supply chain and the production line. Kaizen in Japanese refers to ‘continual improvement’. The idea of Kaizen is to maximize the efficiency of the production process by expecting all workers to search for rooms to improve their performances.
6. Visual Management
The idea of Visual Management is to use visual techniques to convey information more efficiently. This includes the use of a record of stocks, auditing boards, and performance charts to make the production process more effective. The downside of this tool is that the use of too many visual aids can become confusing and result in miscommunication.
In earlier Japanese production lines, workers would often fill out a card when a raw material or component was running low. Arising for the Japanese word for ‘signal card’. Kanban is concerned with the use of stock and inventory as necessary. Kanban is the Japanese word for “Signal Card.” The idea behind Kanban is to prevent the formation of unused stock, by ordering components only when required. The idea of Kanban is to buy more parts only when needed.
8. Standardized Work
As the name suggests, Standardized Work is a lean tool that analyzes the current best practices in the factory. Aims to improve others and then settles on the new standard as the baseline for continual improvement. Standardized Work is usually concerned with the production rate of a product. The inventory used up and the work sequence of the production line.
Yet another lean production technique used by the Toyota company. Heijunka ensures that type and quantity of production uniform throughout. It comes from the Japanese word for ‘leveling’. Heijunkaminimizes batching of products in a factory and also reduces inventory, manpower and production time.
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10. Value Stream Mapping
Value Stream Mapping, a close cousin of visual management. Uses flow diagrams to portray the production process and allow for the identification of problems and wastage. It determines wastage in the production line and reduces the manufacturing time for products.
11. Root Cause Analysis
Root Cause Analysis (RCA) is a lean tool that is used to identify problems in the production process and solve them accordingly. RCA bestows the idea that to treat a problem, it is best to first get to the root cause of the problem, rather than solving symptoms. It works based on three principles: that every problem that occurs has only one root cause. That the identification and solution of the problem should be such that it never occurs again. That investigation must be carried out effectively to identify a problem.
The above are only some of the tools that employees at the upper management level can take up to ensure a continuous and frugal workflow environment in a factory. Using lean management tools appropriately can help a long way to increase the productivity of the assembly line workers and the efficiency of the production line. However, it is up to managers to decide. Which lean production tool would be appropriate at which moment and choose them wisely.