How Suppliers Use Lean Manufacturing To Eliminate Waste And Create Flow - Miller Fabrication Solutions

How Suppliers Use Lean Manufacturing To Eliminate Waste And Create Flow

July 7, 2017

Working with a metal manufacturer that eliminates waste related to material use, time and movement helps your OEM save on manufacturing costs.

One of the best ways for your supplier to eliminate waste and create flow is to practice lean manufacturing.

A shop floor that’s visibly and functionally organized shows that your supplier is likely working to reduce waste. Suppliers that prioritize cleanliness often adhere to the “five S’s” of an organized shop:

  • Sorting
  • Straightening
  • Shining
  • Standardizing
  • Sustaining

Having a clean shop improves workplace safety, reduces the risk of manufacturing errors and allows for greater efficiency of metal fabrication, machining, welding, finishing and assembly services.

Other techniques for eliminating waste are not always as immediately apparent as a clean shop. Learn more about how sophisticated metal manufacturers practice lean manufacturing.

Practice Cellular Manufacturing

A lean supplier practices cellular manufacturing instead of traditional department-style manufacturing. Your metal manufacturer should keep the equipment it needs to produce a metal part within a single cell.

For example, your supplier may complete welding, machining and assembly together in the same place.

The right supplier breaks down departments and creates an assembly line within a cell. The whole value stream is in the same area. This saves a great deal of time compared to moving a product around between departments.

Instead of manufacturing a large batch, like putting 20 parts through welding and then moving them to machining, cellular manufacturing allows a supplier to produce one part at a time.

Your supplier is able to practice quality at the source in this way. When it reduces batch sizes, it can be more alert and keep quality issues limited to a single piece.

Run Kaizen Events

To practice lean manufacturing well, your metal manufacturer should perform Kaizen events.

During these events, cross-functional teams create a project charter that outlines the scope of what they want to improve, discuss intended project outcomes and spend three days improving a process.

Part of the first day of a Kaizen event may include training. Your supplier must make sure everyone on the team understands the lean manufacturing approach before attacking a problem.

The first afternoon gives the team time to understand where the company is currently in terms of solving a problem.

Days two and three are all about improvement. The team now understands where it is and what lean tools are available. These two days are high-energy and very productive. Team members make rapid improvements on a targeted process.

Eliminate The Seven Wastes

Finally, your supplier should continually work to eliminate the seven wastes:

  • Transportation
  • Inventory
  • Motion
  • Waiting
  • Overproduction
  • Overprocessing
  • Defects

For example, in terms of transportation, your supplier won’t be able to eliminate movement of parts altogether. But when it finishes production on a certain part, it can work to reduce how many feet the part must travel on a forklift. Every little bit adds up.

Safety, quality at the source and clarity about what is expected of employees are important principles for your supplier to abide by.

Enabling flow is also critical. Once a supplier starts work on a product, that work should continue until it’s ready to go to a customer. Letting products sit for a day or two in between processes increases lead time.

Finally, your supplier should be eager to learn, grow and improve. Lean manufacturing is not something a supplier implements in a month – it’s a continual process that enables your supplier to best serve its customers by eliminating wasteful behavior on a daily basis.