In the world of manufacturing management, lean manufacturing has become synonymous with the best practice of eliminating waste and providing consumers with value. While waste minimization seems simple in theory, it’s not always as easy in practice. Key metrics such as OEE (Overall Equipment Effectiveness) and OLE (Overall Labour Effectiveness) track overall improvement progress over time, but achieving real improvement in production takes an effective strategy, the right approach and time. The truth is, every manufacturer is different and approaches to lean production can vary widely. My 30 years in the manufacturing business has taught me a few essential things about how to reduce production losses:
Like W. Edwards Deming famously said, “Without data you’re just another person with an opinion.” To reduce losses, you must first know exactly what is happening on the floor. This not only means having complete and accurate data but also having the right context. Being purposeful in how and what data you collect will help form a clear, concise and true context of exactly what is happening on the production floor.
Most manufacturers today have very limited resources in which to respond to the continuous flood of production issues that occur every day. It’s essential therefore to be able to identify and focus quickly on what is most important to prevent or reduce losses based on a complete and accurate picture of what is happening. For example, using real time production data to clearly identify the impact that bottleneck operations are having on throughput, will ensure efforts are focused on the right areas to improve the output of the entire system.
The lean approach to reducing production losses relies on participation and motivation of everyone –most importantly those on the shop floor. The right approach ensures that everyone is working together in a coordinated and aligned effort. Let’s say, for example, that you decide to integrate a production measurement system. Involving everyone in both the capture and use of critical production information engages them in the improvement process. It gets everyone on the same page and speaking the same language. When people are engaged and know how their job contributes to the company’s success, they become invested in the outcome.
It’s easy to get caught up in the production numbers but data has no value without an act to address it. Production loss is only reduced when action is taken in the way that achieves results. This means getting the right guidance, to the right person, at the right time and in the right way.
Bottom line: It’s not a gadget or spreadsheet that will help increase production and reduce waste. It’s about having the full picture and strengthening relationships with your team.