Engineering

Seven indispensable tools for lean management

Tools for process improvement

Value stream mapping identifies production processes, so that waste comes to the surface. For administrations wanting to start with this, 'Makigami’ is a grateful tool. This tool exposes among other things how often files are transmitted and to whom. And that is necessary, because often files go through various services and no one has a view of the whole flow.

Then again, in a production context the SIPOC diagram is useful for standard work instructions. SIPOC stands for 'supplier', 'input', 'process', 'output' and 'customer'. Such a diagram encourages us to think about the process flow.

Finally, there are plenty of techniques to improve the plant layout, from one-piece flow (reducing lot size to shorten lead times) and heijunka (searching a product mix that continuously meets the question) to line balancing (deducing takt time or production rhythm from the question and divide tasks evenly across operators so that their cycle time just fits within the takt time).

Lean management as support for operators

Lean management helps operators in all kinds of ways in their work and increases their involvement and motivation. Think of 'poka yoke' or 'error proofing', guaranteeing for instance in sheltered workshops that employees cannot work but in the right way, but also think of icons, lines on the floor and labels on workstations that visually show how something should be done.

The 5S method is a commonly used tool to create an efficiently organized workspace:

  • Separate (what do you keep on the workplace and what not?)
  • Arrange (give what you want to keep a permanent location and make sure you can find it easily)
  • Clean (by cleaning machines, leaks or wear will also come to light)
  • Standardize (write steps on paper and organize training courses)
  • Maintain (offer help and coaching, but map progress as well).

By using these tools and with the necessary active involvement of management and operators lean management eventually is part of a corporate culture in which operators spontaneously and actively think along and try to optimize every aspect of their work.

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