Perhaps the hardest part to get started with continuous improvement is figuring out how and where to start. Change is hard, especially where teams are concerned, and the thought of stumbling at the outset is scary. One continuous improvement (CI) launch in particular comes to mind when I think about the ups and downs of this kind of initiative. Nearly two decades ago when we were first formally launching CI, our team had many conversations that seemed to go in circles. We also received lots of advice — mostly about which tool to embrace first, such as “start with 5S, it’s the foundation.” Why was there so much confusion around something that was to bring clarity to the business? The biggest thing I’ve learned since those early projects is that companies often make things harder than they need to be. But that’s not all I’ve discovered along the way.
- October 21, 2020 / by Patricia Hatem
Are manufacturers aware they have hidden production capacity? Companies that find and free up hidden production capacity can avoid costly equipment purchases, open the door for additional sales, or reduce the time and cost of existing production.
I’ve been a part of organizations that were struggling to satisfy customer demand — we simply could not produce enough product, or at least the right product at the right time. Determining how to resolve the issue would often put the operations engineering and production planning teams at odds. The solution most obvious to engineering was to continue running products in basically the same lot sizes, but at higher speeds. This approach required expensive new equipment. Besides the equipment purchase, there were other significant costs: inventory builds, downtime for installation, debug after installation, and operator training.
- August 28, 2020 / by Patricia Hatem
Manufacturers are always eager to balance efficiency, reputation, and the many other factors that affect overall business performance. Everyone agrees that performance improvement in manufacturing operations is one powerful tool companies leverage to achieve their strategic business objectives. Even when there’s a status quo in market conditions, regulatory requirements, and other factors, nearly every manufacturing enterprise is doing something to improve manufacturing performance. When something happens to disrupt circumstances — whether it affects just your business, many companies, or an entire group — there’s no doubt you’ll respond to your company’s best advantage. But will you also use the experience to uncover “the hidden factory,” and discover new ways to create capacity without adding equipment?
- June 10, 2020 / by Sean Lashmar
- April 7, 2020 / by Patricia Hatem