Implementing lean manufacturing practices

Departments - Reference guide

A few important steps allow successful lean manufacturing.

February 3, 2015
Elizabeth Engler Modic

Whether thinking about implementing lean manufacturing practices in your facility or looking to learn more about it, these implementation tips can help to determine whether your manufacturing process can benefit from lean techniques, and if so, what is the best way to go about implementing them.

Key implementation steps include:

  • Perform value-stream mapping
  • Optimize storage configurations
  • Give workers tools for success
  • Work toward consistency
  • Continually reassess further changes

If you take advantage of these tips, you can significantly cut wasted time, products, space, and money; improve customer and worker satisfaction; and improve quality.

Assess your needs

No matter how extensive your understanding of your manufacturing process, taking the time to assess your facility needs in depth and cut down on waste is a critical first step.

Work with team members throughout your manufacturing process to determine what parts and tools are needed for current production demands. Assess everything in your production warehouse, and get rid of everything that isn’t being used. Depending on the item and your predicted future demands, you may choose to relocate the item away from production areas or to dispose of it entirely. Excess stock takes up valuable space in your production facility, slows down manufacturing, and can hide production issues.

In addition, an important part of assessing a facility’s needs is value-stream mapping. This will help you to see what steps are being taken in your manufacturing process, where delays occur, where other waste may come into play, and how to resolve these issues. Value-stream mapping is essential to the streamlining process, and can determine the state of your manufacturing facility and map out an ideal, future-state process.

Reconfigure storage

With a firm grasp of your facility’s needs, a value-stream map, and a future-state map, you can plan for implementing new processes. One of the key aspects of this plan is figuring out how and where to store tools, parts, and other items to most effectively use space and time.

For example, open shelving is an inefficient storage method for all but the largest, bulkiest items often wasting space between shelves and toward the back of each shelf. High-density drawer storage can be used to dramatically reduce storage footprints. Drawer storage allows customized subdividing, grouping similar items together in clearly labeled spaces. This cuts down on wasted space and on searching time, enabling workers to locate specific items quickly.

High-density storage units open up the capability for completely customizing your storage spaces, therefore allowing for the most efficient use of space. Another option is to retrofit existing shelving with modular high-density drawer storage inserts for highly customized organization. For example, Lista International shelf converter systems can retrofit into existing standard 24" deep shelving units, providing higher density and more easily organized storage for very small- to medium-sized items, with the option of leaving existing shelves for large items.

Finally, assessing what items need to be stored nearest to production areas, and which are best stored away from these areas, will increase efficiency. Items that see the highest use should be stored where they are used, while lower-traffic items and those that are bulky and in the way of production should be stored farther away.

Set workers up for success

Workers who are comfortable in their workspace are more likely to be successful and productive. Worker comfort factors include cleanliness, accessibility, safety, and ease of use of working environments.

Clean environments can lead to improved worker morale. Moreover, clean environments – that is, environments free from spills, dust, airborne particles, and toxic or irritating substances – are safer. Ensuring lean workspaces should be a top priority of a lean process, and it’s easier when storage, workspaces, and workflow are streamlined.

Efficient storage can also improve worker experience by cutting down tiresome, frustrating search times. Workstations that include storage for the most frequently used parts and tools are the best way to increase employee comfort and productivity simultaneously. Flexible workstations that can be adjusted to individual workers are especially useful, such as Lista Align adjustable-height workstations, which fit into nearly any manufacturing setting.

Be consistent, continually reassess

Choosing a workbench?

Lista offers an interactive product selector system that, in a few clicks of a mouse, determines the best workbench for the task. Step 1 asks where the workbench will be used. Step 2 asks for input on what work will be done. After selecting criteria, recommended products are displayed and more information is availble from there.

Lean practices will only improve results if they are implemented consistently. Workstations and storage areas have to start out clean and organized, and a process plan may be streamlined, but they need to remain that way. Workers at all levels must be invested in the process and accountable for maintaining the environment. In addition, you will need to adapt and change things along the way. Be sure to stay on top of how efficient the workflow is, how well practices are being implemented, and determine whether changes need to be made.

Continuous improvement is one of the main tenets of lean manufacturing, and with good reason. Initial lean manufacturing practices only serve as a starting point for streamlining manufacturing processes and eliminating waste. Once implemented, continue to perform value-stream mapping, identify areas where improvements can occur, plan for the future, and execute plans. Through a continued willingness to evaluate new solutions, you will ensure that your practices, efficiency, and process-flow continually improve.


Lista International