Lean Manufacturing Consulting

Lean Manufacturing is not actually about manufacturing.  It is the application of Lean Management to an operational process.  This operational process could be manufacturing, in which case it would include the entire production process from purchasing through shipping. Lean can be applied to other operational processes such as a distribution process, which would be the entire receiving, pick/pack and shipping process.  It could be healthcare which processes patients.  Or it could be to a service company with no physical goods, but whose operational process involves creating information.  Examples of service companies include accounting, banking, and insurance companies.  The application of Lean Manufacturing is therefore the application of continuous improvement to business processes to achieve operational excellence.

The goals of a Lean Manufacturing implementation are the continuous improvement in your key performance metrics.  This may be decreased lead time, increased capacity, improved quality, reduced costs and consistent delivery or service. The goal is the achievement of operational excellence, with a focus on processes that minimize lead times and rapidly and reliably deliver products or service to customers. 

Within a factory, warehouse or healthcare environment, Lean Manufacturing goes beyond production and touches all aspect of the business, from facility layout, material flow, key performance metric tracking, inventory levels, purchasing, planning and scheduling, quality systems and work instructions. The focus is to eliminate waste (Muda), remove imbalances in the process (Mura) and relieve the overburden or bottlenecks of the process (Muri).

The eight “wastes” that a Lean Manufacturing implementation seeks to eliminate are:

  1. Extra motion
  2. Overproduction
  3. Unnecessary work content
  4. Waiting
  5. Inventory
  6. Rework
  7. Product travel
  8. Underutilized People

If you can achieve a business process that minimizes these wastes, you will achieve business process operational excellence. 

Lean Manufacturing Methodologies

Most implementations use one or more of the following Lean Methodologies.  As part of our consulting services, we have developed templates and standards to apply these methodologies to a variety of industries and unique operational processes:

  • Value Stream Mapping allows us to see the flow of materials through the facility, quantifying the wastes and focusing attention on the priorities for improvements.
  • Time Studies allow us to eliminate non-value added steps, identify safety violations, and design future state labor and equipment requirements. In addition the detailed time data are used to balance the process to meet customer lead times.
  • Spaghetti Diagrams map the movements of people throughout the process to help the team see unnecessary labor movement in the current state.
  • Process Mapping will be used to ensure the flow of information for the entire manufacturing process is understood and streamlined.
  • 5S Visual Controls organize and standardize the tools, supplies and information required for the future state manufacturing process.
  • Cellular Manufacturing is a philosophy that product families should be built in small (preferably) U-shaped arrangements of equipment dedicated to that product family. Small teams of people are responsible for the start and completion of products within the cell.
  • Kanban Materials Management creates the pull of raw materials, work-in-process and finished goods inventory into the Lean Manufacturing System. It is used to ensure material availability and limit over-production or over-purchasing.
  • Quickchangeover reduces the time to changeover from product-to-product within the flow cell, improving equipment utilization.
  • Andon Boards make tracking operational performance and measuring improvements visible to the entire team.

Lean Manufacturing, Six Sigma and Problem Solving

Lean Manufacturing is often combined with Six Sigma (and called Lean Six Sigma).  Lean methodologies are very good at streamlining processes.  Six Sigma is very good at problem solving or drilling deep into a problem to understand the root cause.  When combined into Lean Six Sigma, the team will have the methodologies in their toolkit to both streamline processes and be effective at problem solving. 

Supply Chain Management and Lean Manufacturing

In many ways, supply chain management is the application of Lean in the supply chain, or outside the “walls” of the firm.  Lean Manufacturing is very focused on internal operations and the customer, with a goal of minimizing lead times.  Supply Chain Management attempts to streamline processes between suppliers and the firm.  Being a Lean Thinker when problem solving with your supply chain, you can eliminate waste for the entire supply chain, versus just your firm.  Creating a Lean Supply Chain is the next step beyond Lean Manufacturing. 

Lean Manufacturing and Theory of Constraints

Along with Six Sigma, Lean Manufacturing and Theory of Constraints are the three most well-known and frequently implemented operational continuous improvement methodologies.  As a Lean Manufacturing consulting firm, we think about bottlenecks and then apply Lean Six Sigma to the part of the business that is constraining your ability to serve customers effectively and profitably. 

By bringing together these three methodologies, Lean Manufacturing Consultants provide the best tools to work on different problems and processes.  It could be that there is a difficult problem in the process but to sustain the improvements requires 5S.  Or we may be streamlining a process using value stream mapping but we find a high reject rate at a certain step that requires problem solving.  Viewing continuous improvement holistically, results in more robust and sustainable improvements. 

Operational Excellence

It is critical to remember that Lean, Six Sigma, Lean Six Sigma and Theory of Constraints are all methodologies to achieve goals.  These goals are usually to improve service to customers and minimize lead times, while being effective and profitable within the company and across the supply chain.  This can be easily summarized as achieving operational excellence. 

Lean Manufacturing Implementation (Kaizen or Projects)

Many Lean Manufacturing consultants consider Lean as kaizen events.  These events are usually one week sessions that move all the detailed work (value stream mapping, time studies, etcetera) into a Monday – Friday session.  The typical kaizen schedule is to use Monday for education and planning, Tuesday and Wednesday for analysis, Thursday for implementation and Friday for reflection, celebration and to determine how to close out open action items.  In reality, kaizen events often have an extensive planning period prior to the week event, to ensure that everything is prepared for the kaizen week activities.  In addition, there is inevitably follow-up needed to ensure action items that could not be closed during kaizen week get completed. 

As part of our Lean Manufacturing consulting services, we try to determine if a kaizen event is appropriate.  Alternatively the implementation may be better within a project format.  It is common for Lean Six Sigma to be implemented in approximately 3 month project format, which allows time for deep analysis and closing out all action items. 

Lean Manufacturing Consulting

It is important when choosing a Lean Manufacturing Consultant to understand their approach and your culture.  At Supply Velocity, we have been providing Lean Manufacturing consulting services for over 22 years.  We use a blend of education with a focus on implementation.  We typically work on streamlining complex processes and therefore often use a Lean Six Sigma project approach to implementation versus kaizen events.

Lean forms the foundation for all of our consulting services.  However, as a consulting firm we also use Six Sigma, Theory of Constraints, Supply Chain Management and S&OP to help our clients achieve their goals.  If this more holistic view of continuous improvement methodologies and the achievement of operational excellence is appropriate for the problems you are facing, we would like to be your Lean Manufacturing Consultants.