In trying to develop the benchmarks for the automotive industry production facilities, Womack developed a set of five principles that form the basis of what we now refer to as “lean enterprise implementation”.
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The results of Womack’s endeavour were published in the book “Lean Thinking”, a milestone in Lean Management.
The value of a product or service can only be understood from the customer’s point of view. We call this “the voice of the customer.”
You need to consider the several voices of the customer:
- What are we falling short of meeting customer needs?
- What are the new needs of customers?
- Voice of Market – Are we ready to adapt to trends?
- Voice of Competitors – Are we behind?
- Voice of Internal Sources – Defects, delays?
- Voice of Employee – Concerns in organisation?
- First step in removing non-value added steps from a process is to map the process, following the actual path taken by the part in the plant.
- Walk the full path yourself (Genchi Genbutsu).
- Draw the path on a layout and calculate the time and distances traveled (aka “spaghetti diagram”).
“Flow” means that when your customer places an order, this triggers the process of obtaining raw materials needed just for that customer’s order. The raw material then flow immediately to supplier plants, where workers immediately fill the order with components, which flow immediately to a plant, where workers assemble the order, and then the completed order flows immediately to the customer.
- Push is a traditional manufacturing philosophy – to produce based on estimated forecast of demand.
- The opposite of Pull production is Push production.
- In Pull production, the customer demand instance triggers a part being pulled from upstream.
- Using the Pull philosophy each operation only pulls product from its prior operation when real demand exists at the downstream operation. This results in a continuous flow.
- This will result in many positives for the organisation ranging from reduced cycle time, to reductions in inventory to improved customer service levels.
Your product set will often drive which of the 5 principles (or whatever mix is required) you will use to learn how to improve your manufacturing processes. The idea is no matter which principle you use, that you have a process in place which provides the customer the best product possible while providing your staff a system they can be proud to be a part of.
Ultimately these principles must be matched up against costs and profits, but repeat customers and a motivated workforce help to reduce the costs of implementing systems like these.