Lean Manufacturing in the United States
The fastest-growing modern quality systems (Six Sigma and Lean Manufacturing) have their foundations in the movement that began in the United States in the 1940s called Total Quality Management (TQM). It was developed by an American mechanical engineer named Frederick Winslow Taylor. The principles of TQM and its use in manufacturing in the United States are based mainly upon the four pillars of:
- Customer service
- Managerial participation
- Use of continuous improvement tools.
Lean Manufacturing was conceived through the Toyota Production System (TPS) that promotes strict and efficient manufacturing processes, while maintaining respect for the worker.
This system was developed by Japan’s Toyota Motor Corporation and put into practice in the US as a way to eliminate waste in the context of the 1973 oil embargo. The main purpose of the TPS is to improve productivity and reduce costs by following in the footsteps of Taylor’s scientific management system and Henry Ford’s mass assembly line.
The Toyota Production System approach is broader as it targets not only manufacturing costs but also sales, administrative and capital costs. Toyota thought it was risky to adopt Henry Ford’s production system, which works very well in high-growth time. In times of lower production growth, as was the case in the early 1970s, it became more important to pay attention to the elimination of waste, the reduction of costs and the increase in efficiency. In the United States this way of approaching processes is called Lean Manufacturing
The Toyota Production System identifies seven types of waste (Shingo, 1981):
- Overproduction (produce more than required).
- Waits for the next step (dead times, imbalances).
- Unnecessary transport (very large lots, long process time, very large warehouses).
- Overprocessing (“just in case,” lack of communication, redundant approvals).
- Excessive Inventory (more than one piece in process, protect the company from inefficiencies).
- Unnecessary movements (any movement that does not add value to the product).
- Defective products (inspection and repair of material in inventory).
This system has several tools that help eliminate all operations that do not add value to the product, service, and processes, increasing the value of each activity performed, and eliminating what is not required. In the context of manufacturing in the United States, the goal is to reduce waste and improve operations in ways that respect the well-being of the worker.
The main precursors of Lean Manufacturing in the United States are Taiichi Ohno and Shigeo Shingo. During the 1940s and 1950, Taiichi was the assembly manager at Toyota. He developed many improvements that eventually became known as the Toyota Production Method. On the other hand, in 1955 Shingo began working on rapid model changes for a Mitsubishi ship plant where he managed to double the capacity of the company’s engine line. During the 1960s, while working at Matsushita, he developed what is now known as Poka-Yoke and in 1969 the Single Minute Exchange of Dies (SMED) was born when he reduced the time for setup changes in a press from 1000 tons from 4 hours to 3 minutes.
The main objectives of Lean Manufacturing in the United States is to implement a philosophy of Continuous Improvement that allows companies to reduce their costs, improve processes and eliminate waste to increase customer satisfaction and maintain profit margins.
The 5 Principles of Lean Manufacturing
- Define Value from the customer’s point of view: Most customers want to buy a solution, not a product or service.
- 2. Identify the Value Stream: Remove waste by finding steps that do not add value.
- Create Flow: Make the whole process flow smoothly and directly from one step that adds value to the following step, from raw material to consumer
- Produce Customer ‘Pull’: Once the flow is done, produce on customer orders rather than based upon long-term sales forecasts
- 5. Pursue perfection: Once a company gets the first four steps, it becomes clear to those who are involved, that adding greater efficiency to the process is always possible.
Lean Manufacturing tools include 5’S, Just in Time, Pull System, Manufacturing Cells, Kanban, Total Productive Maintenance (TPM), Kaizen, Poka Yoke.
Lean Manufacturing in the United States is a quality system with which we eliminate what does not add value to the product, and therefore to the customer. It has various tools, which have helped many companies lower their manufacturing costs, lower their production lots and inventories, reduce their scrap and unnecessary movements, as well as reduce set-up times. Additionally. They are able to reduce delivery time, produce better quality, and use less labor.
Lean Manufacturing provides companies and industries with the tools that are needed to compete in a globalized market that continuously demands higher quality standards, faster delivery at a lower cost, and in the quantity required. With all these tools companies can create more robust production systems.
World Class Manufacturing
The increasing internationalization of the economy suggests that, even if it is available for local or domestic companies, most of the world market will be left to the so-called “global enterprises”. Only those companies that are world-class competitors can survive in this select group. Because of this reality, Production Management must become a formidable competitive weapon.
There are four phases in the competitiveness of production: These include:
- Stage 1: Internally neutral: The role of Production is to solve the issue. Making the product can be delivered to customers as planned since success depends on marketing or design.
- Stage 2: Externally neutral: It is not enough to “resolve the issue” of manufacturing, since the standards of cost, quality and delivery time of the competition must also be achieved, imitating their management processes and techniques, etc.
- Stage 3: Internal support: At this level, it is no longer a question of imitating competition, but of making the Production Administration fit the competitive strategy that has been chosen by the company.
- Stage 4: External support: Production Management plays a key role in corporate strategy, developing skills and capabilities superior to those of other competitors.
In this last stage, the global company must achieve what is called world-class production. To find out whether this high level of manufacturing quality has been reached, there are three indicators that must be observed I order to demonstrate that the company stands out clearly from its competitors: These are:
- The rate of inventory rotation (raw materials and finished products).
- The rate of defective products (measured in parts per million).
- Standard manufacturing time.
There are further indicators that are considered to be somewhat more subjective to companies but may be seen as being equally pertinent:
Among them are that:
- Its workers and managers are coveted by other companies due to their qualifications.
- Equipment suppliers are constantly seeking company advice.
- The company responds to market fluctuations (quantities, prices, new products) faster than others.
- The entity interconnects product design with manufacturing processes.
- The company continuously improves its facilities, support systems, and capabilities.
Companies that have achieved this level of excellence in their production tend to be governed by the following principles
- Putting the customer first.
- Being aware of the importance of quality.
- Practicing fair production.
- Highlighting the role of technological innovation.
- Managing for the long term.
- Being action-oriented.
Furthermore, manufacturing in the United States among world-class companies is characterized by:
- The process of continuous improvement.
- The maximum use of human resources.
- An emphasis on quality.
- The achievement of a continuous, uniform, and fast manufacturing flow.
- A recognition of the importance of planning and execution.
Finally, it is worth mentioning some other contributions to thought on manufacturing in the United States in recent years. Among them are:
- The simultaneous achievement of high quality of service and productivity.
- Total Quality Management (TQM), with the basic idea that quality is everyone’s business and not a specific department within the company.
- Business Process Reengineering, which seeks to make revolutionary changes, with qualitative leaps in efficiency and productivity, rather than the gradual and cumulative changes that characterize TQM.
- The emergence of the digitized company, based on the recent and rapid expansion of the Internet. The use of web pages, digital formats, and interactive search engines, etc., have changed the way businesses obtain information, communicate, and make purchases, with greater agility and lower costs.
- Supply Chain Management, or Integrated Logistics, which focuses as a “total system” on the entire flow of information, material resources, and services, from raw material suppliers to end customers. This has the aim of optimizing workflows and producing significant impacts on costs and quality of customer service.
Cell manufacturing in the United States is a trend in plant design, especially when different production lines are configured. To develop a cellular manufacturing system, families of components or products that have similar characteristics are determined. For each family, a workshop (called a cell) is designed that is usually made up of different machines or equipment required to manufacture a group or family of components.
This concept modifies the old workshop idea that depends on machines or equipment of the same type (e.g. cutting workshop, paint shop, etc.). In this instance a cell is designed according to the product and can have different machines and/or equipment, to perform different processes.
The main advantages of cellular manufacturing in the United States are:
- The reduction of set up time.
- A reduction of work in progress.
- The reduction of material handling cost and time,
- A reduction in material flow distance.
- Improvement in machine utilization.
- A reduction in production lead time.
- The achievement of higher levels of quality.
- The creation of better worker morale.
A flexible manufacturing system (FMS) is comprised of machine -tools that are linked by an automated material handling system that is operated automatically with conventional technology that can include a CNC (computer numerical control).
An FMS consists of several numerically controlled machine tools per computer where each of them is able to perform many operations. Due to the versatility of the machine tools and the ability to exchange cutting tools quickly (in seconds), these systems are relatively flexible with respect to the number of types of parts that can produce simultaneously and in small (sometimes unitary) batches.
These systems can be almost as flexible and more complex than a workshop and, at the same time, have the ability to achieve the efficiency of a well-balanced assembly line. The tools can be delivered to the Flexible Manufacturing System both manually and automatically.
FMSs have an automated material handling system that transports parts from one machine to another in and out of the system. They can consist of automatically guided vehicles (AGVs) driven by wire from a conveyor system or towed by carts.
The use of FMS allows for productive flexibility, real-time management, and an accelerated level of general automation so that an online cell can accept the entry of raw material to manufacture ready-to-assemble products.
It is necessary to decide on the distribution of the FMS plant, as well as to specify the numbers and design of both the platforms and the different types of accessories to be used. Manufacturers must also create and organize planning, programming, and control strategies to operate the system. Design specifications and needs can change, causing the initial designs of a Flexible Management System to vary widely. After the creation and subsequent implementation of the FMS design, the models are also useful for establishing and scheduling production through the system.
The control issues of an FMS involve real-time monitoring in order to ensure that the system performs as envisioned and that the expected production levels have been achieved.