Thursday, August 27, 2009

Modern Machine Shop Online & the Most Valuable Lean Resource for Success

Modern Machine Shop is a metalworking professionals’ publication that aims to improve and expand manufacturing by connecting the buyers and sellers of metalworking technology. They recently launched a Lean Manufacturing Zone.

MMS Online’s newly expanded Lean Manufacturing Zone includes both articles and video profiles about machining facilities that are succeeding at lean.

Other resources in this zone include articles on lean-manufacturing concepts such as 5S, setup reduction, value-stream mapping, cells and chaku-chaku—as well as a variety of articles specifically focused on lean in the job shop.


A recent article of interest highlights the lean journey at KLH Industries. Their journey is one where lean fizzled after some initial success.

Company president Ken Heins knew he needed to find a way to make lean stick. He had studied lean, and understood the potential that a commitment to lean manufacturing would have for improving the focus, responsiveness and efficiency of his machining business. The problem was that he couldn’t do it himself. He couldn’t even do it with a group of lean champions around him. For a culture of lean to take hold at KLH, more of the employees would have to look at the workflow as he had come to see it, and integrate an understanding of lean into the way they go about their work.

However, they found the secret to succeeding in changing a company’s culture which is so necessary to sustain lean transformations.

The solution that KLH found is this: Get everyone involved. Instruct everyone so that every set of eyes is trained to look for waste. The parts do not repeat, but the processes do. And who better to see how to improve these processes than the people who interact with them every single day?

KLH also made a number of other important changes to prevent them from fizzling out in the future:
1) pay attention to the little things to sustain commitment
2) create custom shadow boards for machine tools for consistency
3) implement kanban to prevent running out of materials
4) incentivize improvement suggestion and implementation
5) create an environment where failure is acceptable and valuable

I particularly like this last line in the article about the importance of failure and success as a necessary part of the lean process.

The lean journey progresses this way—through both successes and failures. The point of lean is eliminating waste, and no time is wasted that is spent on trying a promising idea.

Some companies and management miss this key point. Lean is about the journey, not the destination. Results will come if you keep your focus on the process to get to the results and not the results themselves.

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