From the automotive industry to food companies to large scale industrial production environments, achieving the principles of Lean manufacturing requires efficiency. Efficient organizations experience less waste and achieve higher profit margins. By applying Lean manufacturing ideals along with work automation at scale, even greater time savings and better business performance is possible.
What Are Lean Manufacturing Principles?
The principles of Lean manufacturing focus mainly on two areas of business performance:
- Improving Efficiency
- Reducing Waste
As an introduction to Lean manufacturing, the idea is that “Leaner” workflows or manufacturing processes deliver greater effectiveness than those that are not Lean. The core principle of Lean manufacturing essentially means that you have removed any unnecessary or wasteful methods or techniques.
The Five Lean Manufacturing Pillars
The primary objective of Lean manufacturing is to produce required products and services with the optimal number of resources, and in as short a time as possible, without sacrificing quality. But, how does an organization achieve this? Understanding Lean fundamentals is a great place to start. So, let’s dive into the Lean pillars.
1- Define What Value Means to Your Company or Industry
The first pillar of a Lean process in manufacturing revolves around knowing what your industry values. If you’re a hedge-fund investor, for example, you may view value of a company in terms of ROI. On the other hand, a foreman at an auto manufacturing plant looks at company performance from a narrower perspective – such as the volume and quality of parts produced or vehicles completed.
In every industry and company,value creation will take on a different meaning – even if the basic financial fundamentals are the same. With this in mind, organizations will need to look at what part of a workflow or process needs to be developed, modified and/or monitored to create new or improved value. From there, putting Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) in place provides consistent, top level insights abouthow the business is performing. On a micro-level, it is important to understand and monitor all of the components of a workflow and/or process. That’s where workflow automation platforms like HighGear can help every team member monitor critical aspects of the business for which they need to create value. For instance:
- The accounts team can monitor work associated with payments, budgeting, and auditing The production team can monitor parts produced, materials used, and how the team is orchestrating their tasks throughout a manufacturing cycle
- The sales team can monitor complex estimation and quoting workflows and where others on the team stand with the tasks related to the effort
Pro tip: No matter which industry a company is in, value should be looked at through the lens of the customer. . Ensure that customer perceptions and their experience remain a number one priority.
2- Map Your Workflow to Find Value “Leaks”
The second of the Lean principles in manufacturing is to map your workflow, or value stream, and locate any leaks. This step should be comprehensive, covering every possible aspect of the manufacturing process in question. It should be noted that this isn’t about trying to boil the ocean by looking at all workflows and processes. Start on the ones you deem most valuable or important and focus on those as your starting point.
By visualizing and viewing an entire workflow or manufacturing process, you can find the areas where changes will drive the greatest contribution to improvement and emphasize them. You can also remove unnecessary steps, actions, and resources that don’t add value.
3- Remove Bottlenecks
Sometimes, a certain part of the process isn’t truly a waste element. It’s useful, but it doesn’t add value because it’s not truly efficient. An inefficient process always leads to some form of waste, whether in the form of manhours or valuable staff that would be better employed elsewhere.
Here’s where the use of technology can play a role in helping to address these issues. A functionally complete work automation platform like HighGear helps eliminate bottlenecks by giving you an overview of the process and allowing you to change and optimize it. Especially with a no-code workflow automation solution, you can quickly and easily add additional checkpoints, approval processes, and work items to troubleshoot, accelerate and monitor the process in real time.
4- Reduce Waste: Aim for Just-In-Time Delivery
Reducing waste is one of the fundamental principles of Lean manufacturing, and inventory is one of the areas with the greatest potential for issues.. Effectively reducing waste can rely heavily on lowering inventory levels to only the number needed by customers over the course of a set period of time. The same is true for work in the pipeline. It’s best to aim for just-in-time delivery where possible. This isn’t a new concept but one that deserves emphasis as supply chain challenges can wreak havoc when unchecked.
Work automation platforms help to manage production, inventory movement, and manufacturing in general by orchestrating work across the supply chain from start to finish. Lean manufacturing techniques can help improve processes and outcomes and by using technology, such as business process management platforms, improvements can be accelerated.Streamlined efficiency, and the ability to identify problem areas, lead to reduced waste.
5- Continuous Improvement: Make 100% Efficiency Your Goal
The fifth of the lean manufacturing pillars is the idea that there’s always room for improvement. Even if you’ve improved your systems to 90% efficiency, perhaps from a previous benchmark of 70%, you can still improve!
Aiming for 100% efficiency and 0% waste is always good. By constantly reviewing and analyzing your current workflows, you can continue to improve them.
Perhaps your current work process involves manually sending new customer orders to someone on the team who needs to convert that order into a list of parts required. Upon completion of that step, the list is then forwarded on to a foreman who manually converts the parts list into a list of materials needed to create those parts.
Here, you can likely see room for improvement. With a no-code optimization platform like HighGear, team members can create a module that automatically converts a parts list into a list of materials. The foreman already knows the materials required, but by automating the process, he increases efficiency significantly. It also reduces the risk of waste by ensuring that the acquisitions team gets the right list of materials every time.
Benefits of Automation and Lean Manufacturing
Work automation has many benefits when being applied alongside lean production principles. Some of the most significant advantages include the following:
- Optimally Deploying Your Workforce: By automating specific tasks, whether driven by machinery or human-initiated workflows, you reduce the amount of time wasted in a manufacturing cycle. Less time wasted leads to higher productivity among your existing workforce, allowing you to achieve more with fewer employees or it allows you to redirect resources to higher value tasks.
- Reducing Production Costs: By automating processes, you can maintain current productivity levels while freeing up valuable workers from performing unnecessary tasks. This effectively allows for cost reductions where human intervention isn’t needed and it allows you to optimally deploy resources throughout the manufacturing process.
- Sytems Integration : In today’s business environment, there is no lack of technology and platforms to leverage. The challenge is ensuring effective integration and connectivity of information to enable sound and effective decision-making. If you automate manufacturing processes, you can link your production system to others that allow you to secure a more holistic view of the operation. With the right platforms, you will also be able to proactively respond to needs through real-time reporting. Connectivity across systems allows you to have greater insights on what can and cannot be automated. The more automation comes into play the more you can focus on essential work without neglecting vital but repetitive tasks.
- Improving Worker Safety: Studies have shown that work automation improves worker safety because automated processes reduce the margin for error. When combined with automated machinery, work automation can also help mitigate risk in certain processes.
- Reducing Mistakes: With an automated workflow platform, you can eliminate many of the mistakes that are bound to happen with manual work. Eliminating human error can reduce waste everywhere, from acquiring materials to spending too much time on redundant or unnecessary tasks. .
- Improving Data Flow: A well-constructed no-code platform, like HighGear, makes it easy to integrate different APIs, software, and tools. As a result, you can generate data in every part of your manufacturing process and incorporate that data and/or information into your workflows.
- The list above includes only a few of the many benefits of Lean manufacturing, especially when combined with work automation. Improved accuracy, better workforce management, and easier compliance management are a just a few more benefits of automation and lean manufacturing. When you begin to explore the potential, you’ll realize that the advantages likely extend well beyond your initial objectives.
A no-code work automation tool can make significant contributions in a manufacturing environment. Whether you’re a team leader, an IT specialist, or a plant foreman, efficient automation tools can improve your work environment.
Combining work automation with lean manufacturing principles is a recipe for success. From reducing waste to improving profit, workflow automation platforms allow you to bring out the best in your business.
The advantage of a no-code approach, like that used by the HighGear BPM platform, is that anyone in the company can learn to create and edit processes. This flexibility reduces pressure on the technical team while giving every team member the autonomy they need to function at full capacity.