Precast Consulting Service
Finance, Marketing & Operations

Lean Manufacturing
What's this all about?

You can reduce waste as an ongoing way of life.  Lower your cost.
It's being done by other producers!

  • What's Lean Manufacturing?  It is a method of looking at costs so that continuous improvement is focused on the areas of greatest payoff.  The analysis phase looks at each production operation and separates tasks into value added and waste.  Value added means doing something the customer is willing to pay for, such as casting a piece.  Waste is everything else, such as setup, transport of product or materials within your plantsite, rework, and similar activities that don't do anything for the customer.  Typically value added is less than 10% of work done in the plant.  A focus on waste will reduce costs, a lot.

  • What are typical wastes in precast? Although Lean started with Toyota in the auto industry, it has has proven to have an excellent application to precast.  Here are examples of waste that can be reduced:
  • Lack of standard methods - Disorganization
  • Redundant process steps
  • Bed set-up waste
  • Inefficient handling/transport of product or materials within the plant or yard
  • Unnecessary finished goods inventory
  • Waiting for the crane, mix, parts, inserts
  • Walking to get materials - ineffective material flow or layout.  Walking, walking, walking
  • Waiting for instructions, waiting for drawings, waiting for this-that-or-another.
  • Looking for tools, looking for parts, looking for inserts
  • Checking, counting, measuring
  • Rework
  • Excessive finishing costs
  • You can easily add to this list
  • So what's different about Lean?  Lean is based on continuous improvement.  It focuses on waste.  Action is taken at the work group level with the participation of the work group.  Lean is about working smarter.  This is a winning formula.

  • Here is what you need to remember:
  • Lean is not high tech - it is low tech.
  • Lean is about great ideas that cost little or no money
  • Lean is about teamwork, involvement of work group.
  • Lean is about making small continuous improvements
  • What results are producers achieving? About 5% of precast producers have a Lean initiative underway.  Here are results that are typically achieved.  In a commodity industry where profit margins are typically under 10%, these gains are important gains.  Many producers will want to take initiative.
  • Labor productivity improved 20% - per year.
  • Production increased 50% or more without spending significant capital.
  • Defects and rework reduced 50% or more
  • Supervisory overhead reduced, management layers reduced.
  • What's the problem?  This is not a piece of cake.  Here are some common stumbling blocks:
  • Management commitment for a sustain effort - this is not a fad
  • Producers usually suffer initial setbacks.  This will transform the way you do business.  That's not easy.
  • Willingness to involve employees at the workgroup level is essential but is not part of the management style in many plants.  For more info, click here
  • Requires a dedicated leader, typically 1% of head count.  A lean initiative will fail if becomes one more duty for an operations employee.  It has to be somebody's exclusive job with goals and accountability.
  • Start off with a local Lean consultant.  This is not DIY.
  • Presentation:  For a copy of the Lean presentation recently made at several precast producer conferences, click here.  (Note: this may take several minutes to download if you have a telephone modem)

  • Lean in Non-manufacturing operations  You may think that Lean is only associated with manufacturing processes.  Not so.  In fact, Lean is all about eliminating waste, standardization, and continuous improvement.  In the precast industry this approach has been applied successfully to the engineering and design process, and to the project management process. Lean in Project Management click here

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