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It is often difficult and challenging for small- and medium-sized manufacturers to compete successfully in the global marketplace. But, many of these manufacturers have learned that an organization-wide commitment to creating and maintaining a culture of Continuous Improvement will increase the focus on the customer and grow the bottom line.

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Continuous Improvement requires knowledge of the marketplace including the needs of the customer in order to develop a strategic plan that can be communicated throughout the company. Tactical plans, created as necessary to support the strategic plan, utilize Lean, Six Sigma, Quality Management Systems, Problem Solving and other improvement tools to increase process capacity, improve quality, and/or reduce costs.

Lean plays a key role in Continuous Improvement activities and focuses on the reduction of wastes including;

  • Defects
  • Overproduction
  • Waiting
  • Non-Utilization of People
  • Transportation
  • Inventory
  • Motion
  • Extra Processing

The success application of these and other Lean tools requires the understanding and commitment of company management and leadership.

  • 5S
    • 5S enables us to systematically get rid of the things we don’t need and organize the things we do need in order to enhance efficiency and safety. It is a fundamental Lean tool that also helps to develop discipline within an organization.
  • Total Productive Maintenance
    • Total Productive Maintenance helps us to improve equipment uptime by involving operators in routine maintenance activities. It can also help to develop metrics covering availability, performance, and quality to better assess the causes of machine downtime.    
  • Cellular Design
    • Cellular design and implementation helps us to develop balance and flow between work stations. It also reduces material handling and improves communication between operators when errors occur.
  • Standard Work
    • Standard Work provides documentation covering cycle time, the best known procedure for performing the task, and the required work-in-process inventory to complete the job. It aids us in training and auditing the work we perform.    
  • Visual Controls
    • Visual Controls seek to inform us or control our actions. They can provide key information regarding process performance and save time by providing performance data at a glance.    
  • Facility Layout
    • Facility layout provides a tool for assessing and improving the flow of materials through a facility or office. Proper layout can minimize material handling costs and simplify flow.   
  • Quality at the Source
    • Quality at the Source requires that every operator understands what they are required to do in order to produce the desired result at their step in a process. This is supported by standard work and can result in improved product quality.    
  • Team Work
    • Team work involves cross training such that operators can perform every operation in their area or cell. Operators can assist each other with quality issues or fill in as necessary to rectify minor imbalances in flow resulting in increased productivity and improved quality.    
  • Point of Use Storage
    • Point Of Use Storage is the placement of parts and/or information at the point which it is used. This provides for increased scrutiny of part availability and can reduce material handling.    
  • Kanban
    • Kanban is part of a pull system in which production is triggered by consumption of goods downstream. Kanban signals may be in the form of cards, empty bins, auditory signals, or other means. Properly designed, a kanban system can reduce inventory and improve on-time delivery. 
  • Quick Changeover
    • Quick Changeover involves the study of the current machine changeover process and the application of various techniques to reduce changeover time. Typically, 30% reductions in changeover time can be realized with minimal investment.    

Value Stream Mapping is a diagnostic tool that helps to determine which Lean tools should be applied to implement the process improvements required to meet customer demand.

Constantly losing and having to replace quality employees is a costly process that can require expending resources that could better be allocated elsewhere. And, since according to a recent Gallup Poll, 1 out of every 2 adults surveyed left a job to get away from a manager, having managers, supervisors and lead operators who can earn and hold the respect of those they lead plays a key role in creating a company-wide culture of continuous improvement.

Missouri Enterprise Leadership/Supervisory Training programs, including Training Within Industry (TWI) help companies improve the leadership skills of supervisors, managers and lead operators so gains made through Continuous Improvement projects can be maintained. TWI is made up of four modules:

For more information or for a complimentary consultation to review your needs and provide innovative solutions for your business, contact your Missouri Enterprise Area Business Manager.