The key to integrating sustainability across the manufacturing industry is to minimise waste whilst maximising output. This may sound like an impossible balance to strike, yet Lean principles are designed to make the entirety of the manufacturing process efficient, consistent and sustainable.
Lean manufacturing aims to limit all forms of waste, including materials, cost, energy and time. By streamlining processes and ensuring that everything runs smoothly as standard, the waste created by inefficient production methods is removed from the equation. When every department is focused on creating the best possible product with the least amount of waste, the business naturally becomes more sustainable and also more profitable.
All kinds of manufacturing environments can create huge volumes of physical waste. From sawdust and scrap metal to oils and chemicals, it’s astonishing just how much waste material results from inefficient processes. Meanwhile, these issues can also cause defective products, smaller profit margins and workplace accidents, which is why investing in methods of reducing material waste brings such a strong return.
A main principle of Lean manufacturing is ‘poka-yoke’, which involves every step of a manufacturing process. When the wider manufacturing process is streamlined and fine-tuned using Lean principles, using tools such as ‘poka-yoke’ and visual management products, there’s no room for error. In turn, there’s a reduced need for resources and minimal waste is created.
Another form of waste is excessive stockholding. A large inventory sitting around waiting to be sent further down the supply chain requires massive volumes of energy and physical space. This is where the Just In Time (JIT) delivery model comes in, which prioritises the production of items in line with customer demand. Rather than producing vast quantities of stock that lie around in warehouses for weeks or even month on end, items are essentially made to order.
The originator of Lean manufacturing, Toyota, reported that the Just In Time model enabled a 78% reduction in harmful pollution from its manufacturing processes. Meanwhile, in terms of expenditure, the average business could save around 20% on the cost of inventory carrying if it moves to smaller production cycles.
Transportation is another major focal point. Lean manufacturing principles identify any material motion that doesn’t add direct value to the customer or business as a form of waste, and it should therefore be removed. For instance, any unnecessary journeys, poorly planned routes and superfluous supply chain transit should be targeted and reduced as much as possible. In some instances there may even be the opportunity to eliminate a stage from the system, which could make a significant difference to your company’s CO2 emissions whilst saving your company a lot of time.
Motion also includes any form of journey on your premises, such as inefficient transportation of products within and between your warehouses. Continuous improvement is central to achieving this on a long-term basis, as the analysing of data in regard to warehouse planning, transport routes, journey lengths, number of deliveries and vehicle performance all play a part.
When your motion is minimised through warehouse optimisation, condensed deliveries and in-depth route planning, your workers can get more done in less time whilst the company effectively reduces its carbon emissions.
As well as waste in the form of materials, space, energy, time and motion, there’s also the human element to consider. Skills waste is when human talent and potential are not used to full effect, which results from inadequate training and development opportunities. Only when your staff possess the right knowledge, expertise and understanding of their surroundings can they carry out their duties in a truly efficient manner.
We provide Lean consultancy and bespoke visual management products designed to minimise waste across every manufacturing process, as well as in-depth training through our Operational Excellence Academy. For more information about how we can help and to book a consultation, get in touch with our team on +44 (0)1482 296451 or fill in our contact form.
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