By Ron Ketterling, President BASM 

In our effort to always be ahead of the business automation curve, Mark, a Solutions Specialist, and I took a week out of our already busy schedules to attend a Lean Manufacturing class through a local college.  The 40 hour class was taught by a consultant / industrial engineer with expertise in lean manufacturing.  The instructor identified 15 areas where the manufacturing process can by wasteful, and ways to streamline those processes.  To drive the point home, there were several manufacturing process simulations throughout the class.  

One of these simulations was to build an airplane out of Legos.  The goal was to build 15 airplanes in one day.  However, using traditional – or batch manufacturing processes, the group only got 5 done in 3 days.  By the end of the class, using lean manufacturing techniques, the group had moved from 6 people on the production line to 3 or 4, depending on the process.  We were able to demonstrate how dramatically we could improve productivity, profitability, and customer satisfaction and we were 98% on-time by the last day. 

 In the lean manufacturing processes, we learned about:

  • The 5 “S’s” which included cleaning out junk, keeping things simple, and keeping things in their place.
  • Differentiating between pull systems vs. push systems to reduce inventory excess.
  • Benefits of standardizing work to give you a foundation for change.  Figuring ways to do it faster, better, in a way that is repeatable and creates a new standard.
  • Mistake proofing – how do you build a system that prevents mistakes versus a checklist of things not to do.  A great example is that every car that takes unleaded gas has a knockout that only lets an unleaded nozzle go in.
  • Cellular design to group machines to do a task for a smooth flow, and how to match production times between them.
  • The KAIZEN Continuous Improvement Process advocates tackling the glaring problems first.  It takes too much planning time to try to make it ‘perfect’. Don’t try to get it all the first time—get the immediate gain and then begin again.

Of course, one of our goals in taking this class was to make sure that as we are working with our customers we have a good understanding of how an ERP / MRP system can fit into a lean organization.  In addition, we also saw it as an opportunity to be better business automation consultants.  The class provided us with the insight to see issues we may not have seen as issues before and it demonstrated how simple changes could cause big improvements.  A one hour process that can be converted to a 15 minute process by doing it better, faster, without money out-of-pocket, could be a huge benefit to a company. 

We’re not trying to be your lean manufacturing guru, but we do want to understand the thought process to help get the software systems work in more a lean way. We always want our clients to be better at what they do, and if BASM as your partner can help you do it better, more profitably it’s a win for everyone and we’ve done our job.  

This is part one of a six part series.  The next articles in the March, May, July, September, and November 2011 newsletters will cover specific processes on adopting lean manufacturing concepts and practices.