Lean manufacturing is an important initiative for original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) that want to keep up with the competition. Effectively utilizing lean tools and methods, such as value stream mapping, are critical to keeping factories running smoothly and efficiently.
Value stream mapping allows you to visualize the supply chain in detail. In turn, you’ll be able to more easily spot problem areas, such as bottlenecks in the production line, sources of waste and losses that could be hindering production. Being able to literally see the big picture is key to seeking out issues and making adjustments to reduce waste, save money and otherwise improve operations. There are many software options that can make it easier to deploy this supply chain management tool, saving time that can then be spent implementing changes to improve the factory.
Gain greater insight
Before you can begin to move toward lean manufacturing, you need to have a solid understanding of your supply chain from start to finish. Value stream mapping makes it easy to see everything in one place, so you don’t have to manually inspect each aspect of the production process. This way, you can focus your efforts only on more critical areas, reducing the amount of labor hours and funds being dedicated to making these improvements.
Analyze your options
Once you have a good idea of how your factory is currently running, it’s time to take a closer look. Industry Week pointed out that a key to success is ensuring the visualization is accurate. If the map indicates that inventory lead times are creating delays at the beginning of the build, look at the numbers and talk to the employees who deal directly with inventory management. You may find that a vendor managed inventory (VMI) program would better suit your company’s needs, as it will streamline the procurement and maintenance of parts like fasteners and other class C components.
Monitor effects of changes
Once you’ve targeted areas to improve and have made changes to operations and policies, it’s important to make sure they’re effectively helping you reach your end goal. Value stream mapping allows you to do just that. Not only will you be able to keep an eye on current operations, but you can compare the visualizations with the original and any subsequent images to map your factory’s progress. You may find that certain processes are exceeding expectation while others may have come up short.
Don’t try to fix everything at once
Before you completely overhaul your inventory system or purchase new equipment to replace older models, you may want to slow down and take things one step at a time. ASQ suggested focusing in on one aspect of your production process first rather than trying to examine the entire operation. Taking this approach can be beneficial when learning the ropes of value stream mapping, as it will take less time and allow you to become familiar with the value stream maps so you’re not overwhelmed.
The same approach can be applied to fixing the issues you encounter. For instance, if you have a bottleneck at a stage in production in which a subassembly must be built, rather than dedicating more employees to the task or allocating more time to the task, which can be costly, you may want to look into kitting services that completely remove the subassembly process from the factory floor.