Lean manufacturing is being utilized by businesses of all sizes today. Although it took a few years to become mainstream, the success stories from mid-size to large corporations have pushed lean manufacturing down to very small organizations.

Most of the large corporations employ a few lean experts. Many mid-size and most small businesses do not have lean manufacturing expertise in the company. It is common that a few individuals have attended a lean manufacturing seminar or read a few books, but lack the expertise to develop a road map.

The reason most courses and seminars do not teach a “road map” is because the tools are best applied to problems or bottlenecks, rather than forcing the tool use on the opportunity. For example, a machine that sets up once per week in 30 minutes probably doesn't warrant a week of single minute exchange of dies (SMED) activity.

However, a road map can be used with common sense. Lean manufacturing has been called “common-sense manufacturing”, although not always “common practice”.

Here are 20 steps that comprise a lean manufacturing road map:

  1. Form team (mix of lean manufacturing and relevant business experience)
  2. Develop communication and feedback channel for everyone
  3. Meet with everyone and explain the initiative
  4. Begin to train all employees (lean overview, eight wastes, standard operations, kaizen, RCPS, PDCA)
  5. Facility analysis – Determine the gap between current state and a state of “lean”
  6. 5-S - It is the foundation of lean. Workplace organization is critical for any lean initiative
  7. TPM – Begin Total Productive Maintenance early (used throughout lean)
  8. Value Stream Mapping – Determine the waste across the entire system
  9. 7 (or 8) waste identification – Use with value stream mapping to identify system waste
  10. Process mapping – A more detailed map of each process
  11. Takt time – Determine need to produce on all processes, equipment
  12. Overall equipment effectiveness and six losses – Determine the losses on all processes and equipment
  13. Line balance – Use, if necessary, with takt time and OEE
  14. SMED – Push setup times down to reduce cycle time, batch quantity and lower costs
  15. Pull/one-piece flow/Continuous Flow Analysis – Utilize kanban and supermarkets
  16. Analyze quality at the source application – Poor quality stopped at the source
  17. Implement error-proofing ideas
  18. Cellular manufacturing/layout and flow improvement – Analyze facility and each process
  19. Develop standardized operations – Concurrently with SMED, line balance, flow, layouts
  20. Kaizen – Continue improving operations, giving priority to bottlenecks within the system

The specific implementation plan should be developed from the facility analysis. The analysis identifies areas of opportunity in every area of the business, including sales, service, engineering, maintenance, production, quality, shipping and administrative functions.

Some lean manufacturing projects within a lean initiative require the tools of Six Sigma to find the improvement answers. The lean manufacturing team needs to be trained to understand when the lean tools must be supplemented to either solve the problem or maximize the improvement.

Kaizen events may use all of the lean tools (and some Six Sigma tools) to meet the team's objective. Kaizen events are conducted on an ongoing basis to achieve a state of “lean”. For example, a process may need a quick throughput improvement. The kaizen blitz could include focused SMED and OEE analysis. The kaizen might have an objective to reduce setup time from 80 minutes to 60 minutes in four days.

It is important to keep an enterprise view with the analysis and road map. No single operation should be improved at the expense of the entire system. For example, if a bottleneck is happening at Process B, improving Process A prior to B only hurts the system worse. A larger-scale example is improving throughput if shipping cannot handle the volume. Although many improvements cause bottlenecks elsewhere, forcing a larger known problem is rarely a good idea.

The road map above is only one example. It could be shown with many different variations. However, there is a logical sequence to many of the tools. Value stream mapping is almost always conducted very early on in the process. The 5-S system provides a foundation for most other tools. TPM is large and plays an important role in OEE improvement and, therefore, must be started early.

The key is to have a plan and get started. The path to lean will not be straight and it never ends. Don't let the pursuit of perfection get in the way of being “better” today.

About the author:
Carl Wright is an industrial engineer, ASQ Six Sigma blackbelt and master blackbelt. A primer on lean manufacturing events is located in his lean manufacturing training and Six Sigma blackbelt site. To learn more, visit www.1stcourses.com.