For an original equipment manufacturer to truly embrace lean manufacturing, it takes more than implementing a few changes and hoping for the best. Continuous monitoring of daily operations is key to remaining lean. Failure to stay on top of supply chain management can lead OEMs to slip, as processes that are not up-to-date could be creating unnecessary waste, downtime and lost resources. OEM officials can remain lean manufacturing leaders by familiarizing themselves with the various strategies, theories and policies that can be used to focus the company on staying lean. There are a number of tools OEMs can use to this end, including five innovations that can prove extremely beneficial in the manufacturing industry: gemba, hoshin kanri, jidoka, kaizen and poka-yoke.
It is important for managers and higher-ups of an OEM to not only monitor things from afar, but get their hands dirty and spend time on the factory floor. According to iSixSigma, in-person observation is the backbone of this principle. This provides a chance to see how operations are going directly, to speak with employees and get a better overall sense of any issues that may have arisen. The source pointed out that going on a “gemba walk” through the factory should not be a time to consider solutions to problems, but simply to take in the current state of things, taking note of any issues, from broken machinery to production downtime.
This policy deployment method enables OEMs to take strategies from the idea phase through to continuous improvement with the assistance of a visual planning process. According to Hoshin Kanri Pro, this strategy is based on the concept of “plan, do, study and act.” When management are actively monitoring various factors, such as safety, human resources, internal production, inventory and quality on a regular basis, they can more easily make adjustments to keep things running efficiently.
Automation can help your lean efforts continue to function efficiently once you’ve put them in place. The term “jidoka” translates to “automation with a human touch,” according to Toyota. The Japanese company developed this practice for its production system to develop high-quality products more efficiently by automating steps of the manufacturing process, while keeping a human element present. Essentially, the idea is to set up the machinery to automatically report issues in real timeso production can be stopped right away until the manager can resolve the issue and prevent it from recurring.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency touts kaizen, another method born from Toyota’s factory, as one of the fundamental lean manufacturing methods, as the strategy holds the key for continuous improvements. Kaizen events can be used to quickly and effectively target, analyze, resolve and monitor areas of supply chain management that need to be improved to reduce waste, enhance quality and bolster efficiency. The main goal of this process is to eliminate waste, which can lead to more cost efficient manufacturing.
This Toyota-created concept literally means “mistake-proofing.” A poka-yoke is a mechanism designed to check that everything is in working order prior to the start of a process to prevent errors and unnecessary waste, according to The Manage Mentor. While in some cases, poka-yokes can be actual mechanisms that prevent machinery from running of something is amiss, the source pointed out that the term can also encompass a human element, visual strategies, or even computer programs that serve the same purpose. There are two types of poka-yokes: prevention-based and detection-based. The first can predict issues before they occur, while the latter is designed to halt production when something goes wrong, as sometimes it is not possible to prevent issues depending on the process.