Lean Management: 5 Ways to Optimize Fabrication Flow

Brittany Beckmann No Comments

Countless manufacturers have increased cash flow, lowered PPM and shortened lead times by implementing LEAN strategies and optimizing the flow of their fabrication floor. Most, if not all, manufacturers know that there’s always room for improvement, which begs the question: where do you start?

Instead of running around and trying to fix a bunch of little issues at once, take a step back and evaluate the whole picture to answer one question: where’s the bottleneck?

1. Look for Work In Progress

The bottleneck should be easy enough to identify. Look for where work piles up, waiting for the next production stage. Let’s say the bottleneck in your plant is welding. You’d be able to identify this by the pile of parts waiting to be welded. If identifying work in progress (WIP) isn’t that easy, conduct time studies to see what process takes the longest.

2. Conduct Time Studies

If you do decide to conduct a time study, paying special attention to what specific steps take the longer than others. For example, when timing the press brake process, you may notice that the operator may spend a lot of time setting up the machine. In that case, you’ll have identified the root of the problem and can strategize accordingly.

3. Organize, Organize, Organize

How much time does the average fabrication worker spend looking for parts or a tool? Decrease time wasted looking for objects by organizing your manufacturing cells. Make sure everything has a place and label it. Consider engaging your company in 5s. However, keep in mind that organization doesn’t matter unless the entire fabrication floor is on board and puts tools and parts where they belong.

4. Conduct Regular Audits

Ensure your organization efforts pay off by initiating regular audits. Investing in lean management or an ISO certification will definitely enforce efficient fabrication flow and may even benefit your company’s PPM, on-time and lead time.

5. Engage Your Company in Lean Culture

As mentioned earlier, none of these changes mean anything unless everyone believes and maintains Lean ideals. Constant improvement stems from everyone’s input and will result in a lot of trial and error. The important thing is to not get discouraged and know that you’re always working towards something better.

HUI implement Lean manufacturing in 1998. Since HUI’s Lean initiative in 1998, our PPM has decreased by 90 percent, lead time has gone down by 71 percent and our on-time has improved by 13 percent. Those who worked on the floor during that time recount the immediate lack of WIP piles and more room overall. This changed allowed HUI to grow as a company, eventually leading to more inventory turns and inevitably better cash flow.

If you have any questions regarding fabrication flow optimization or are in need of an industrial manufacturer, contact us today.

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