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Does your factory need a lean manufacturing consultant?

October 10, 2022

 by David Collins III

manufacturing workers

Yes, it probably does. Most factories could use a lean manufacturing consultant to bring a fresh perspective to find waste and improve efficiencies.

What is the Primary Purpose of a Lean Manufacturing Consultant?

The overall purpose of lean manufacturing is to eliminate waste in all forms. Waste in material, waste in time, waste in movement, etc. In fact, lean methodology identifies 7 types of waste:

  • Overproduction
  • Inventory
  • Defects
  • Motion
  • Overprocessing
  • Waiting (time)
  • Transportation

Every factory struggles with these wastes even ones that already have a continuous improvement system in place. There is always room to improve operations and find new ways to be more effective, safer, and produce better.

Challenges That Lean Consulting Can Resolve

Lean is a valuable tool for EVERY factory since it is an industry agnostic methodology. From the food processing industry to aerospace, from cheap toys to complex electronics, there is a use for lean to achieve better results.

Here are two examples of the types of challenges a lean manufacturing consultant can help resolve.

1. Lean in inventory

CMC does a lot of work in inventory management. Most factories in China keep excessive amounts of inventory. Factories often buy excess inventory to take advantage of volume discounts. It is a classic example of penny wise and pound foolish. It might be a good deal to buy a year’s worth of material but if 30% of that inventory is wasted as well as the wasted space and energy to manage it, the deal does not seem as good as it once did.

Lean in inventory means streamlining the process of purchasing the material, storing the materials, and using those materials for production. A lean consultant can help you understand what your material needs are, how much and how often it should be purchased, and how to track inventory usage. These methods can greatly reduce the amount of inventory on hand, which improves cash flow, frees up space that could be used for other productive means, and reduces material waste.

Factories often do not even realize that they carry excessive inventory until a lean consultant shows them what is possible.

2. Lean in Motion

Wasted motion is any motion that is not adding value to the product. A wasted movement spending time gathering tools and materials that could be spent working on a product.

Let’s say that a particular station has to screw two pieces together and the process takes 20 seconds. If the critical components (screws) and the tools (screwdrivers) are not readily available, the operator wastes motion (and time) finding those pieces. The screwdriver is a box, and it takes 5 seconds to find, and the particular screw is mixed with other screws, and it takes 5 seconds to find as well. That means the 10 seconds of every minute are wasted. That means a third of the time is wasted.

To resolve this problem, the lean consultant will look at the workstation and recommend changing it to reduce motion. Each screw will have its own clearly labeled box and a sufficient supply for the shift and each screwdriver a specific location. Now each takes 1 second to retrieve.

The results speak for themselves. The simple changes reduce the amount of time taken at that station from 30 seconds to 22 seconds. Previously the operator completed 480 units in a 4-hour period. Now, he or she can produce approximately 654.

The factory may not realize that this increase is even possible.

The Bottom Line: Thrive Rather Than Survive

Is having a lean manufacturing consultant a necessity for a functioning factory? No, a factory can function and muddle its way through without the services of a lean consultant. The factory can survive without this assistance. However, it needs to continuously improve if it wants to thrive rather than just survive.

A good analogy is if you were paid $5.00 for something you made that cost $2.50 to make. While the buyer is handing you the payment, you let $1 fall on the floor, and you leave it there. Sure, you still made a profit of $1.50 but you could have made a profit of $2.50. So why leave that dollar on the floor?


Interested in improving your factory process and productivity? Click below.

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Topics: Lean Manufacturing, Manufacturing Consulting, Manufacturing In China

David Collins III

David Collins III

David was a Senior Strategy Consultant for Deloitte, served in Iraq as a Special Operations Civil Affairs soldier, and as a Governance Advisor to the Afghan Government with the Department of State. At CMC, David advises clients on strategy and investments.

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