Lean Manufacturing Workforce

Process Improvement: Choosing the Right Tools (Part 2 of 2)

In part one of Process Improvement (PI) Tools we looked at the Lean techniques of Cellular Flow Manufacturing, Poka-Yoke and Kanban Pull Systems. The three disciplines focus on manufacturing products at the lowest price with the least amount of waste while adding value for the customer. Lean techniques were created and implemented during the 1950’s in the Japanese car manufacturing industry and applied worldwide to different industries. Part Two of Process Improvement Tools will look at set-up reduction, Total Productive Management, A3 Planning and Hoshin Planning.

Set-up Reduction reduces waste and excessive set-up times. Single Minute Exchange of Dies seeks to reduce set-up time to less than ten minutes. One Touch Changeover seeks to reduce set-up time to a minute or less. These techniques offer a low-cost method to achieve increased capacity with existing equipment. It also reduces lot sizes and allows greater product mix. Process Improvements are made by a cross-functional problem solving team.

Total Productive Management is a simple idea: keep all equipment in top working condition. A maintenance program will pay for itself by minimizing downtime resulting from breakdowns. An investment in maintenance helps avoid delays and prevents larger more costly mechanical failures from occurring. Successful implementation of this technique requires setting aside any disdainful mindset towards maintenance needs. Instead of viewing maintenance as non-revenue generating necessary evil management needs to view this department as an important though indirect contributor to the bottom line.

A3 Planning, also known as Systematic Problem Solving, is based on the Plan-Do-Study-Act model proposed by William Deming. The term “A3” comes from the European paper size roughly equivalent to 11 inch by 17 inch Americans use. The entire template should fit on one sheet of paper for ease of faxing at the time of inception. This process has seven basic steps:

  1. Determine the background

  2. Define the problem

  3. State the goal

  4. Determine the root cause

  5. Enact the plan

  6. Check results

  7. Follow-up actions

This elegant process looks simple but can become very complicated under certain circumstances

Hoshin Planning ensures that the mission, vision, organizational goals and objectives are clearly understood in the entire organization from top management to the shop floor. Seven steps typically exist in the process plan. Hushing Planning requires long-range strategic planning and buy-in at all levels.

  1. Establish the vision. Examine existing vision and mission statements to see if they are still applicable.

  2. Develop objectives that require your organization to grow over the next five years.

  3. Develop annual objectives which will help to achieve the longer term objectives.

  4. Act upon annual objectives to create complete alignment in the organization.

  5. Decide what the most appropriate problem solving approach will be.

  6. Review progress on a monthly basis then take corrective action if needed.

  7. Conduct an annual review to determine if desired results are being achieved

These Lean management tools seek to improve operations by eliminating waste and creating value. A great deal of dedication and the proper mindset required at all levels of the organization when using any of these tools.

The choice of the best technique for your company depends on your facts and circumstances. Let us guide you through this process. Contact us to learn about the services we provide or to discuss your most important business issues. Schedule a free evaluation by calling us at (973) 998-9801. Or find us on the web at

Contact NJMEP

Request Your Complimentary Assessment

Schedule Now