When Wiley Metal hired Scott Meyer as Continuous Improvement Manager. it was in part, to allow us to respond quicker to the needs and desires of our customers. There are a lot of caveats to that goal, however, because speed alone is far from the only mission. There are still quality, satisfaction and efficiency goals associated with improving continuously. Then of course, there are the constant pressures in metal fabrication and manufacturing overall, to meet the bottom line and financial expectations of making a profit.
This is actually why a Continuous Improvement Manager can be so critical. He is not just focused on improving the bottom line or improving quality. His job is not just to increase customer satisfaction levels or prompt deliveries. He has the much more challenging position of continuous improvement overall. The thinking in manufacturing is that if there is constant overall improvement, everything, including on-time deliveries, quality, efficiency, customer satisfaction and the bottom line improves as the result.
Components of Continuous Improvement
While continuous improvement is a broad, encompassing term, Scott has been focused on learning more about, and implementing several key components.
- Lean Manufacturing. Large manufacturing contracts can be won or lost on slimmest of margins. This doesn’t mean every project or bid is the one for you. Some of the best contracts are the ones that are never agreed to. If there is not a true partnership involved where each side can “win”, someone will lose. That is not a result conducive to long-term relationships. This is why lean manufacturing principles are so critical. When you are constantly working to improve on lean manufacturing, you are better prepared to offer competitive bids that still allow for you to make a profit. In today’s competitive manufacturing environment it is critical to find this razor’s edge where lean manufacturing is accomplished without negatively affecting your product or service.
- The 8 Wastes. One of the beneficial results of focusing on lean manufacturing is a greater awareness of what are called “The 8 Wastes”. Everyone in manufacturing can probably easily relate to these 8 areas.
- Defects – Defects can not only create waste but may cost a manufacturer customers.
- Overproduction – Overproduction may be tempting in terms of perceived “savings” but can be costly.
- Waiting – Yes, time is money and having machinery and employees waiting for work is a prime example.
- Non-Utilized Talent – Under and non-utilized talent is a waste in undiscovered potential.
- Transportation – Logistics and transportation are a major cause of wastes in manufacturing. It must be approached diligently and constantly.
- Inventory – Inventory is like money in a mattress. It may feel good to have it there but it is not putting your resources to efficient use.
- Motion – Movement takes energy and there is a cost to that energy. Keep motion to a minimum.
- Extra-Processing – Know when a product is finished.
3. The 5S Principles. We’ve addressed the 5S principles on multiple occasions. Based in Japanese management, they are generally translated to mean sorting, setting, shining, standardizing and sustaining. It simplifies the shop floor. We conducted multiple 5S events that have helped us eliminate lost time, wasted motion and waiting. Read more about these principles in our previous blogs and see how they can quickly and simply help you make improvements to your processes.
Other components of continuous improvement include Value Stream Mapping, Quick Changeover/Set-up Reduction, Overall Equipment Effectiveness and Total Productive Maintenance.
When you think about it, what’s more important than demonstrating to your customers and your team that you are always in search of improvement? It is a goal worth pursuing.