If you are on the journey of lean manufacturing and you have planted those seeds that will, one day, grow into that mighty tree, don’t give up on your quest. A couple years ago we struggled with the fact that it was actually possible to implement Value Stream Mapping methods in an ever changing fabrication job shop environment. At the time, we were having trouble with on-time deliveries and uncontrollable bottlenecks in various departments. When taking an in-depth look at our product mix and push-type scheduling methods , we soon realized there was definite room for improvement. We also determined that there would have to be a culture change, and that this was going to have to be a team effort and not something that was forced from the top down. So the first initiative was to send all of our employees to Principles of Lean Manufacturing Overview and Simulation hosted by WMEP. This proved to be instrumental in giving our employees the basic understanding of lean and allowed them a voice in the overall goal of what the company was trying to accomplish. These are some of the key success factors in the implementation process:
- Prepare and motivate people
- Involve employees at all levels and functions
- Share information and manage expectations
- Identify and empower champions
- Create an atmosphere of experimentation
- Question everything
- Install realistic performance measures, evaluation systems, and reward systems
- Start with pilot projects – and never stop
Being that this was our first time with Value Stream Mapping, we decided to just go with the systematic approach to identifying waste.
- Identify the target product.
- Draw while on the shop floor a current state value stream map, which shows the current steps, delays, and information flows required to deliver the target product or service.
- Assess the current state value stream map in terms of creating flow by eliminating waste.
- Draw a future state value stream map.
- Work toward the future state condition.
After many weeks and much work from a lot dedicated people, we finally had completed the entire process on one part. As minimal as that may seem, it was an overwhelming accomplishment for New Tech Metals. Since then, we have incorporated over a half dozen new parts and our current measured on-time delivery is at 98%. We also experience productivity increases, we have reduced our work-in-process, our measured quality is at 99%, and have bettered our space utilization. The overall work environment has changed and the morale is positive. As a company, we will continue to incorporate the many factors of lean manufacturing with the expectations of one day world class. So I will leave you with the old saying, ” If you always do what you always did, then you will always get what you always got.”