The lean manufacturing process almost seems to be custom made for the plastic injection molding making and molding industry. Custom injection molding has always been a fast moving, chaotic, and challenging business.
It also has a high potential for profit, even today, despite the international competition and tight margins. Any edge you might gain can make all the difference in profit or loss, and the lean manufacturing initiative is an excellent tool.
Do not try to “cherry pick” what appears to be the best portions of a lean program, you need in integrated approach with the long term in mind.
Waste not, want not
The lean manufacturing process is an integrated approach to reducing waste. It could be time or material or anything else; waste is waste and waste equals money in business. It requires a shift in thinking to approach efficiency from this vantage point, rather than always striving to do more, do it faster, do it better. This is real-world way to reduce mold making costs that works.
Overview of Six Sigma
Implementing six sigma requires that management is dedicated to making it work in the long run. Employees are often cynical toward new programs because, in the past, many programs amounted to little more than slogans and banners.
Using a six sigma consulting firm is a good idea, once you have educated yourself in the basic principles. The time and expense of hiring an outside consultant will pay off handsomely over time. If you have the personnel to manage your six sigma implementation in-house that is even better; though they will certainly need some additional training.
The US government has an agency to oversee lean manufacturing standards: NIST
5S training will give you a huge boost in your lean manufacturing process. This is because the results are so immediate and visible. Everyone likes having the tools they need, the materials in the proper place with labels, and a general atmosphere of everything in it’s place.
It is relatively easy to get your employees to go along with a 5S program. Within a week you will see changes in your production area and the attitude of everyone. Find the key people, train them, give them the authority and communicate with the entire workforce in order to avoid grumbling and confusion.
When you conduct a kaizen blitz, or event, you pick an area or a process and focus exclusively on it. This is a great way to make progress and get people involved because it is by nature short and intense. It is a bit like cleaning up you kitchen before your mother-in-law comes for a visit! You hyper-focus on one area after another until the whole is done.
One drawback though with a kaizen blitz is that it can be mistakenly understood to be the entire process. It is just a component and it should be regarded as such. If it becomes the program, you will not really change the culture or become much more efficient in your operation.
How to start with the lean manufacturing process
It is a good idea to talk to successful shop owners who have benefited from the lean manufacturing process. You will find them enthusiastic and quite willing to open up, for the most part.
You should also read and gather information so you can make wise decisions rather than totally rely on the opinion of a consultant. In the end, you will certainly need outside help, but you also need a thorough understanding of the process yourself.