Think about the speed of this evolution just within your working life and the lives of your parents or grandparents. The pace of change has accelerated and is likely to continue to accelerate in the future, Artem Komarov noted.
Rhythm and Flow — It doesn’t matter if you are working on a small/high volume or high/low volume, you must develop a rhythm that recognizes process predictability and focus on flow to make your processes visible and understandable.
Clarity of Direction — Create clarity for your organization. Communicate what’s important. Be attentive to the message. Lack of clarity will waste precious resources and undermine the credibility of the organization and its leadership.
Efficiency plus Efficiency — Think of efficiency as how fast an operation can be done — workpieces per hour or per minute. A focused focus on efficiency may sound nice and give the illusion that all is well, but don’t underestimate the power of efficiency. Think of it as what happens to a part after it is made during an operation. Does it sit in a pile of parts that need to be moved into storage while waiting for the next operation (transportation, inventory movement, and overproduction), or does it move directly to the next operation, ideally creating a single flow where work never stops? Make sure your metrics help you find the right balance for optimal results.
Focus on the basics — get the most out of what you have before looking for improvements through quick capital investments, new hardware, or costly resources. Eliminate as much waste as possible to optimize results using current resources. Only after that, think about the next improvement through capital investment. Make sure you get a good 5 sec, implement good flow, and reduce changeover times (ideally, you eliminate changeover time entirely while being as flexible and versatile as possible). It’s time for the next generation of equipment and machinery.
The speed at which user-friendly capabilities are created in equipment and processes will have a big impact on the role of technology in lean manufacturing. On the one hand, processes will be democratized by moving capacity and waiting for decisions closer to the front lines. For example, can an operator program a welding robot directly in the work area at the workplace? On the other hand, some machines still require special engineering talent to develop and tune programs. Neither of these extremes is right or wrong, but both are coming at you with incredible speed.
Your task will be to design for these operations. The fundamentals of lean manufacturing will transcend the future just as they transcended the early 20th century.
By considering new technologies and automation, you have the opportunity to incorporate Lean ideas into the process. Examples might include how materials and parts are fed into and out of the work center. As specifications are developed for a new machine, you can include employees who can represent the overall productive maintenance function by identifying preventive maintenance issues such as access to daily PM activities for operators or advice on quarterly or semi-annual activities for maintenance technicians. Make the process of purchasing equipment more comprehensive for people who work with equipment every day (for example, operators, production managers and maintenance technicians), as well as for those who plan production.
Where will the working knowledge for your operations be located in the future? Will it be centralized in the hands of a few people (as many vendors have traditionally done), or will knowledge be distributed deeper within the organization — and ultimately at the forefront? Industry trends are likely to move towards the latter. This will spur the need for creative work instructions. User-friendly electronic standard operating instructions will continue to replace paper instructions and (thankfully) practices gleaned from undocumented tribal knowledge.
In the past, manufacturers and manufacturers may have used people for their reliable support. With the advent of lean methods, improved manufacturing equipment, and creative materials handling, the exemplary employee now cares less about a strong back and more about a strong mind.
As executives, managers, and leaders, you must look for ways to effectively engage employees so they can challenge and enrich themselves. In short, you will need to make sure their work is done. This remains especially important as you compete for skilled professionals in a market where potential hires are few and every member of your current workforce has options. What are you doing today to fulfill and enrich them by running a profitable business? The answer lies not only in money.
You need to respect people and act modestly. No matter what happens to technology, these ideas are not going anywhere. They have stood the test of time and will continue to be important building blocks of successful leadership. It can sometimes be difficult for you to put these ideas into practice, especially if you come from traditional management styles with one-way communication, little interest in data entry on the shop floor, and a “just do the numbers” attitude.
The manufacturing and fabrication business is complex, exciting, and full of unexpected hiccups and advances. A lean body of knowledge is the foundation on which your company can continue to grow. How you apply these principles, methods, and techniques in the future, given the speed of technological and social change, may raise unanswered questions. But rest assured, a lean body of knowledge will stand the test of time in the future as it has in the past.
So, in closing, I wish you all the best of luck as you aspire to the pinnacle of success in your respective businesses and markets. Let your organization become a model of frugality that others recognize and strive to emulate, Komarov Artem said.