Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Does Lean Manufacturing Work for Small-Run Job Shops?

Lean manufacturing is a main idea widely used in today’s manufacturing industries with a lot of different names, such as lean production, lean enterprise and lean implementation. The main idea of ‘lean’ is to consider the expenditure of resources for any goal other than the creation of value for the end customer to be wasteful, and thus a target for elimination [1].

Lean manufacturing is a management philosophy created by Toyota Production System and now widely used in the large manufactures. Both manufacturing industries and food companies benefit a lot with this philosophy. For example, United Technologies spread lean manufacturing in the aerospace air conditioners [2], cutting off the total cost $100k in one time inventory and $45 per year.

But Does Lean Manufacturing Work for Small-Run Job Shops?  This is a question given by Shahrukh Irani. Nearly three quarters of industries firms have fewer than 20 employees, according to data from the U.S. Census bureau. If so, lean manufacturing would do a great contribute to the industry coming-back.
The Lean Enterprise Institute (LEI), a Cambridge, Mass.-based nonprofit organization founded by James P. Womack, says that the core idea behind lean thinking is “to maximize customer value while minimizing waste,” in other words, “creating more value for customers with fewer resources. [3]

In my opinion, although there is more chance for the large manufacturing to benefit by the ‘lean’ philosophy, the idea of reduction of customers’ unwanted resources could still be used in the design processing, assembling processing, inventory and delivery. With high-mix, low-volume thinking, small-run job shops could still reduce their costs. But it seems that there are no popular lean tools to handle the operating not a stylized method to instruct managers what to do, but to give developers a new method to consider the problem. With the new thinking method, the industries would have the ability to serve customers with low price no matter whether the scale of the company is large or small.

We could easily feel the development of our cars: more and more compacted, more and more light, and with less and less small parts. This is an obvious example of lean manufacturing in the large industries. But my small mouse manufactured by small company is more compacted too. There are many large mouse companies, like Logitech, but the one I use now serve my well with a much low price and more comfortable feeling. The two clicks and the face are designed as a whole, and it could be folded, helping me easy carrying.

Here is a video showing that how the ‘Lean’ manufacturing bringing industry back from depths.
This video gives us some examples of  lean manufacturing cost reduction on the large machines, musical products and housings.


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