Tuesday, November 15, 2011
Lean Manufacturing in Low-Volume Businesses
The latest podcast (.mp3) in a series on lean manufacturing by the Rexroth Bosch Group focuses specifically on applying lean manufacturing techniques to the aerospace supply chain.
When most people think of lean manufacturing, they generally think of high-volume industries where the work requires a lot of repetition. In a field such as aerospace, however, the work is by and large customized, and orders for parts can be on the order of the tens or dozens, rather than tens of thousands. In such a low-volume business, often with much smaller-scale suppliers, it isn't immediately apparent that lean manufacturing techniques would necessarily be applicable.
While low-volume industries do require a great deal of customization, on the podcast Richard Rahn speaks about looking for commonalities among parts supplied and between processes. He talks about an assembly process that would more resemble putting together "Legos" than the traditional "job shop". But this type of a change would mean that manufacturers are much more dependent on their suppliers within the supply chain.
Most importantly, he mentions that the idea of lean manufacturing should be thought of, not as a process, but more as a philosophy. With that in mind, even low-volume industries like aerospace can take full advantage of the competitive advantages and cost savings that lean manufacturing provides.
The Lean Podcast Library
Episode 17: Lean Transformation in the Aerospace Supply Chain
Questions: given the source of this podcast and its expert (a company that devises lean marketing products for businesses) do you buy into the proscribed applications for low-volume businesses? If some lean manufacturing techniques can be used in a low-volume business, do you think the effects would be significant, or is it merely a way to affect the margins?