Tapping into Lean concepts

RECENTLY here for a series of workshops with the Association for Manufacturing Excellence, Don Tapping, presented to manufacturers in South Australia, Western Australian and New South Wales who were keen to find out more about implementing Lean Manufacturing within their businesses.

RECENTLY here for a series of workshops with the Association for Manufacturing Excellence, Don Tapping, presented to manufacturers in South Australia, Western Australian and New South Wales who were keen to find out more about implementing Lean Manufacturing within their businesses.

Author of several books on Lean including best seller, “Backstreet Lean-Solutions for the Job Shop” and “Value Stream Management for the Lean Office”, Tapping is highly regarded for his knowledge of waste elimination and improving bottom-line results in all types of industries. Whilst in Australia he spoke with Manufacturers’ Monthly.

MM: What was the response like from Australian audiences to your most recent presentations, and what are the questions you are most commonly asked by Australian manufacturers?

DT: Many of the questions centred around the people side, specifically how to engage them in the continuous improvement cycle. I suggest three things:

1. Communicate to the group the need for a Lean or continuous improvement program.

2. Improvements and growth cannot be accomplished without their process knowledge and intellect, in that, their suggestions will be invaluable.

3. Ensure the simple problems are taken care of first. There would be no point in engaging the workers in creating value stream maps, when they do not having their tooling, prints, gauges, at the time that the job needs to be set up.

The other questions aked by companies here, were in regard to administrative processes, mainly planning, quality, purchasing and engineering. I suggested they start with a 5S program, communicate the need for improvements, and then adapt the practical tools that will improve the work (and information flow).

MM: How would you rate Australian industry’s uptake of lean practices as compared to other manufacturing nations?

DT: From my experience, the larger manufacturers (over 200 employees and/or that have multi-national locations) are within a year or so of all other nations. The Lean information (or Six Sigma) has fairly well proliferated all manufacturing. I believe the Germans are ahead of everyone (besides Toyota), then the US, UK and Australia, followed by Canada.

MM: Lean principles and practices seem to fit in well with “green” or sustainable business objectives? Do you agree and do you think the push towards more sustainable business practices will naturally lead to leaner practices?

DT: Yes. I agree wholeheartedly that Lean and Green will be integrated into one program within an organisation, much like Lean-Sigma. I know of some consulting groups that just are focusing on the Green side of Lean.

MM: Where do you think Australian manufacturers could do better in terms of employing Lean practices? What are the particular challenges we have in Australia in taking up Lean?

DT: I believe the small shops are the ones that struggle with how to apply Lean, maybe not so much in their manufacturing, but their front office practices.

I suggest to the small manufacturers and job shops to do an assessment of some sort, maybe get some governmental grants, solicit an external consultant (with a good track record with small shops), and adjust what Lean methods will work best given their situation.

For example, there is no point in improving lead time if their on-time-delivery is 100 per cent, but their setups are taking two hours compared to what they probably could be, say one hour or less. Lean for the small shop works and many examples exist on the Web.

To find out more about Lean Manufacturing visit: www.theleanstore.com.

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