Lean manufacturing is a term that refers to a technique of production that seeks to make manufacturing operations very efficient and considers any resource expenditure other than that creates value for the end user as being wasteful (Wilson, 2009). The operation thus targets to make manufacturing a process that consist of only of value adding processes centered on preserving value with no waste of resources and with less work.
Lean manufacturing concepts has been applied by some very famous production firms, pioneers being Toyota and Ford. Toyota manufacturing system developed the lean manufacturing concepts and practices, while Ford automobile manufacturer's concepts of continuous assembly lines improved on the lean concepts. The success of this concept in the factory premises was evident and by the early 1990, the concept had eventually become a buzzword. In its next step of development, lean manufacturing stretched out of the factory premises as more and more organizations realized how essential quality and satisfaction of the customer. The concept becomes far reaching to include all the influencing parties such as suppliers and customers (Feld, 2000).
* What are the requirements for balancing JIT (just in time) and lean systems?
There are key requirements to realizing the key goal of lean system. The first requirement is an understanding of the customer need and expectations. The customer needs and value elements can then be broken down to create simple and standardized products with minimal or no mistakes. Through design metrics, the level and extent of customer satisfaction can be determined and the efficiency and effectiveness of the production system can be known.
Another requirement is to develop a network that integrates and includes all stakeholders in the manufacturing process. The supply chain should be integrated to ensure a smooth flow with continuous improvement mechanism to eliminate waste and non-value-adding activities.
Visual controls are used to monitor and manage the process workflow on a day-to-day base. Through the visual controls, the metrics relating to current and the projected status can be seen at a glance as the material and production information move from one operation to the next.
Lastly, lean requires continuous information update and technology improvement to minimize or totally eliminate waste. At the same time, the system should seek to increase the fraction of value adding production activities.
* Are any employees affected if a company decides to switch to a lean system? If so which ones and why?
Any organizational change brought by introduction and implementation of new strategies is likely to bring discomfort and hence resistance to adoption of the new system. This behavioral skepticism and distrust ultimately finds its roots to individual employees. Tension is created between the employees and the management with introduction of new job routines and work procedures that are different from what the employees are used to.
It is for this reason that every organization should find it necessary to prepare its employees before adopting lean manufacturing. This will wear down the resistance and also maximize lean manufacturing benefits.
The most affected group is the production or manufacturing department since most of the concepts and practices targets this group. Through support seminars and technical forums, organizational group intervention can ensure that these employees are not demoralized when adopting the new system.
* Is lean manufacturing a push or pull system? Explain.
Lean is a strategy that works on pull system (Wilson, 2009). Production is triggered by a need for the particular product. Unlike the traditional production system whereby production starts regardless of the market demand of that commodity, lean starts with the customer need as the last process signal and it is this signal that orders an upstream process to manufacture the product (Wilson, 2009). That is, nothing can be manufactured until it is required by the next process and every process results from an order from the downstream process that is needs product.