Metal Fabrication and Lead Strategies

Lean manufacturing is a method of discarding waste in several forms, such as time and materials, to save on business costs.  In the metal industry, lean manufacturing would focus on as little metal being wasted as possible and the processing being as efficient as possible  The primary principles of lean manufacturing insist that any waste manufactured should be minimized.  Secondly, there should be a value stream, where the whole process of the production of the product, with the suppliers and the consumer, should be one entity, and finally, requirements in the market should be connected to manufacturing.

Continuous Product Flow

Lean manufacturing touts continuous product flow.  The machinery and teams are found in work cells, using a process called cellular manufacturing, wherein products are fabricated all within these cells.  Each process is done in its solitary cell.  This system lessens handling of materials and wait.  Lean manufacturing advocates just-in-time (JIT) strategy for inventories.  JIT removes inventory by only producing parts when they are required.  Establishing teams that have multiple abilities and can do multiple functions is also a function of lean manufacturing.  It essentially is moving away from the production line, mass-production environment.

Utilizing Bad Times to Grow

During these economically hard times, businesses should take the opportunity to work on honing the skills of their employees as well as their manufacturing processes including speeding up processes.  Too many lie inactive and wait for business to improve – ultimately laying-off staff.  Instead, they should capitalize on the current situation and find an opportunity – to visit other companies’ locations and even customer’s locations to see what they are doing to become leaner or stay lean.  People and businesses learn from each other.  You have the chance to learn if there are procedural steps in a process that could be disposed of, to save your clients time and money.  Search for ways to advance the quality of a product.  Offer training opportunities to staff to make them feel more a part of the group.

Cost savings must be implemented but the quality of the product must be maintained.  Getting ideas from employees on how to save on costs is imperative.  They can determine when to shut down machinery when it is not needed as well as how to reduce wastes on the materials being used to formulate a product.

One organization in the metal industry that takes a lean manufacturing stance is Maloya. Their lean method helps in them being green and also makes them more efficient.  They recycle any metal they do not use.  In 2007 they received a DOL Lean Workforce Training Grant.  Maloya developed a product line of heaters.  Some of the product components only had a “touch time” of one hour, which means it only took an hour to produce, but it still took two weeks from order to shipment for product fulfillment.  By using lean tools, they analyzed the situation to discover how to take out the non-value add pieces in the process that caused delay.  They also did value stream mapping and improved their value stream design.  They minimized material handling times through the use of shadow boards to organize employee tools and implemented the cellular work centers. By reorganizing raw material and component staging areas they were also able to improve work flow.

Mapping the Value Stream

Value Stream Mapping is an additional tool in lean manufacturing.  It helps to show how materials are flowing and what is needed to get a product to a customer.  The person creating the map can look for improvements in the process and analyze the material flow.  Processes should be categorized into three groups:  non-value add but needed, value add, and waste.
Benefits of Lean

A benefit of utilizing lean manufacturing in a metal fabrication setting includes waste reduction.  This results in the lowering of costs to the business.  The flow of cash will be quicker and the cycles of production will become shorter.  Not as many staff members will be necessary to do certain duties.  Inventories can be maintained at a minimum level.  Equipment can be used at a more efficient level and utilized more often and perform more manufacturing tasks.  The quality of service toward customers will improve and additionally, products will gain in quality.  Because of all of these improvements, profits and business expansion will grow due to lean manufacturing implementation.

Reto Hug is the President of Maloya Laser which focuses on <A href=””>laser cutting technologies</a> and complex metal manufacturing using <A href=””>highly specialized laser systems</a> targeting aerospace, medical, machinery, scientific and transportation requirements.

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