Tag Archives: Efficiency

Lean for Refugees

Refugees in HungaryEurope is currently experiencing a refugee crisis. Hard numbers are difficult to obtain, but it is estimated that one million refugees arrived in Germany in 2015. Government authorities were ill-prepared to handle and organize these people. Significant resources have been put in, but they never seem to be enough. The organizational processes are not yet functioning well.

As it happens, I am an expert in improving organizational and other processes. I decided to help, and together with two other professors,  founded an initiative, Lean for Refugees. We are politically neutral, volunteering our time to organize these processes so we can help both the refugees and the government. Let me give you an overview of what we have done so far. Continue reading Lean for Refugees

How to Reduce Your Inventory

InventoryReducing inventory is one of the goals of lean manufacturing. In my last post I described why we need inventory in the first place, and why too much inventory is bad for you. Now let’s look at how we can achieve a good inventory level. First, an important statement: Inventory is not a lever that you can pull. It is more the result of other good lean improvements. In fact, merely pulling this lever and reducing inventory will actually make things worse. To gain the true benefits of lower inventory, other measures have to be taken. In this post I would like to describe what happens if you simply reduce inventory, and how to do it to achieve a lower inventory without causing mayhem in the process. Continue reading How to Reduce Your Inventory

Why Do We Have Inventory?

Typical WarehouseInventory is expensive. Depending on your environment, inventory will cost you between 30% and 65% of its value. Toyota is known for (among other things) small inventories. Whereas Western companies often have weeks’ or even months’ worth of inventory, Toyota’s inventory is measured in hours.

It is no surprise that inventory reduction is high on the list for many companies. In fact, the term “lean” by itself implies lower inventories. But why do we have inventory in the first place? And why is (too much) inventory considered evil in lean manufacturing? In this post I would like to tell you the reasons why we have inventory in the first place, and why too much is bad. In my next post I will explain what happens if you simply reduce inventory, and discuss in more detail better approaches on how to reduce inventory. Continue reading Why Do We Have Inventory?

What Is Your Production Capacity?

Three HourglassesYour production capacity is one important aspect of your production system. The capacity has to match your demand. If your demand is higher than your capacity, then you will not be able to supply the customer. On the other hand, if your capacity is higher than the demand, then you will have lots of idle workers and machines, which is not good either. The name is actually a bit of a misnomer, since capacity is the ability to contain  things, whereas for a production system we are much more interested in the number of parts that are completed. In any case, capacity is important! Continue reading What Is Your Production Capacity?

How to Use an Andon – and How Not To

One Station Andon CordIn my last post, All About Andon, I detailed how the mechanical side of an Andon signaling system works, including Andon cords, buttons, and boards. In the Western world, the mechanical side of an Andon system usually works pretty well. However, in most cases, the usage of the Andon is poor to nonexistent. Hence, in this post I tell you how to actually work with an Andon, and then I will give you a rant why  companies so often mess it up! Continue reading How to Use an Andon – and How Not To

All About Andon

Andon paper lantern
A light in the darkness, guiding you toward efficiency…

Andons are systems to alert operators and managers about current problems in manufacturing. The system automates the information flow in case of problems. An Andon system usually consists of the actual Andon, sometimes called an Andon board. Often, additional input and output devices are possible, the most famous being probably the Andon line, a cord that can be pulled to alert others about a problem. In a second post I will talk about How to Use an Andon – and How Not To. Continue reading All About Andon

Pay Attention to Details – Operator Training at Toyota and Scania

Watchmaker
It’s all in the details…

Often, implementing “lean” means management is picking the latest lean-related buzzword and telling their people to implement it. This is wrong on so many levels. For one, a lean project should always start with a problem, not a solution. On another level, good manufacturing is all about the nitty-gritty details. Both normal operations and improvement projects need a lot of attention to details. Unfortunately, this is frequently lacking in many companies. In this post I would like to show you the level of detail for operator training in some excellent companies. Continue reading Pay Attention to Details – Operator Training at Toyota and Scania

230 Years of Interchangeable Parts – A Brief History

Bolt and Nut
It fits!

Today 230 years ago on July 8, 1785, Honoré Blanc demonstrated the first large scale interchangeability of complex mechanical parts in the courtyard of the Château de Vincennes by disassembling musket locks, mixing the parts, and assembling them again. While it took another 150 years for the idea to take hold firmly in industry, it all started here with 50 muskets. Time for a look back in history. Continue reading 230 Years of Interchangeable Parts – A Brief History