Operational Excellence Corner – The Lean Journey


Over the next several months, we will be discussing subject matter related to helping guide your manufacturing operation on its Journey to Operational Excellence.  We will open the Operational Excellence “Toolbox” during our Journey and start to explore individual tools and methods to show how and where they can be used most effectively to improve your business.

Lean is a Culture… get ready for change!

We have all heard the terms “Lean, Six-Sigma, DMAIC, Value Stream, Kaizen, 5-S, JIT, Waste, Takt Time, Process Improvement, Continuous Improvement, Value Stream and Problem Solving” to name a few.  There are many more but what do all of these things actually mean, how they work and when they should be used.  These are all tools, methods or processes that, when properly deployed, will improve your operations by instilling a foundation of Culture Change and Operational Improvement.  This change focuses on eliminating waste, variability, inflexibility and pursues perfection.  This ultimately results in improved manufacturing costs, a sustainable competitive advantage, improved customer satisfaction and smoother process flows.

Lean eliminates waste at all levels.  It provides the customer with value that they define, expect and are willing to pay for.  Lean is a process of continuous improvement and moving from a “Current State” to a “Future State” through use of tools that we will be discussing in future articles.

What is Waste?  Waste is all around us in everything we do every day.  We see it at home and at work.  Study the graphic “Eight types of wastes” for an overview to the types of waste that we learn to live with.  These are all opportunities for improvement.  Waste is NOT just what we throw in the trash can.  Every level is an opportunity to save money and improve your competitive position.    Key metrics involved in assessing waste in your processes are:

  • Waiting – for a process or manufacturing step – unevenness in production rates
  • Motion – unnecessary physical motion with a process step – wastes time and energy
  • Transportation – Non-value-added processes moving product inside the plant or on the road
  • Inventory – Excess inventory results in excessive costs and returns no value
  • Rework – “Do it right the first time” and never inspect quality into the part….. this has no value
  • Over-Processing – Performing additional steps or value which the customer does NOT require
  • Over-Production – Producing more than is needed to meet orders – produce to the “pull rate” determined by the customer’s needs.
  • Last and not least is the failure to use employees to contribute – they are one of your most valuable assets

What is Lean about?

Lean is about the customer and what they value

Lean is about optimizing flow through all tiers of your operation

Lean is about Improving Processes and Reducing Variability through use of tools and methods

Lean is about driving towards perfection

Lean IS NOT a “slash and burn” philosophy – its methods get the most out of your process, people and result in excellence

Lean requires commitment from the top!  Management must be committed, champion the process, and be actively engaged at every turn.  The process is not simple or fast because it builds upon itself as time goes on.  But, the Lean Journey will result in measureable and sustainable improvements for your organization.

OH! Manufacturing can help you on this Journey to build your new Culture!  Contact us to arrange a time to explore your needs.  We deploy projects that include employee training (Six-Sigma White, Yellow, Green and Black Belt; 5-S); assessments & determination of operational metrics/KPIs; Supply Chain; and development of reporting methods such as a Balanced Score Card (BSC) and Dashboards.

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Greg McMahon

Program Manager at PolymerOhio Inc.

Greg brings over 30 years of manufacturing experience to PolymerOhio. He is a mechanical engineer and has run his own manufacturing business as well as helped other companies in their quest to become more effective at what they do. In his earlier career, he worked for E.I. DuPont where he gained his love for the chemical and polymer industry, machine design, automation and electrical controls. Greg understands both the up-stream and down-stream pressures that businesses face today and uses those skills to help clients solve their manufacturing and operational problems.
Greg McMahon
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