THE LEAN ASSESSMENT AND DESIGN PROCESS
The lean assessment process is based on a data-driven, gated approach that takes a holistic view of the business. Each assessment should begin by asking what the end goal is for the business: Are you trying to improve quality or on-time delivery? Reduce inventory or increase market share? If the project includes building a new facility or renovating a large portion of an existing facility, you should also consider how the business and/or product may change over the next five, 10 or 15 years and how the facility will need to adapt to those new requirements.
The lean assessment road map, illustrated below, will guide you from these big-picture questions to a manufacturing process that yields favorable financial and operational outcomes.
Every lean assessment begins with an initial assessment, which is conducted through site visits, meetings with subject matter experts, walking the manufacturing floor and data collection on key metrics. Typical metrics include on-time delivery, days of raw materials and finished goods on hand, process cycle time, amount of work in process, safety, and defect rate. Each of these metrics is evaluated to establish a detailed understanding of the current, overall operational efficiency of your facility. Development of key process maps assists with identifying areas for potential improvements that feed into the next stage of the process.
The next step is developing a facility strategy customized to your business and manufacturing objectives. This is accomplished by defining the guiding principles for the business based on an analysis of the overall manufacturing and business strategies, as well as a gap analysis between the current and proposed future state. Typical manufacturing strategies include the desire to add automation in key areas of the operations or limit the amount of fork truck activity in the facility. On the business side, common goals include increasing market share or introducing a new line of products or services. Each of these examples drives specific requirements that must be addressed during the concepting phase.
Concepting is an iterative, data-driven process that moves systematically from an initial design to concept simulation and, finally, validation. During this phase, all the information that has been developed in the strategic analysis is incorporated into the design of the facility.
One example of a strategic objective is the reduction of fork truck activity in the facility. Meeting this objective will drive specific design requirements that might involve the addition of automation, such as conveyors or automated manufacturing cells.
Another example might be reducing the need for a large warehouse by developing a plan that minimizes inventory levels at every stage. Many times this is accomplished by doing a thorough analysis of raw and finished goods inventory. In addition, implementing key process improvements often frees up floor space, which can then be used for new production lines for new products.
The final deliverable is a schematic design and general arrangement outlining the initial specifications for your project. This will include an estimate of costs, a milestone schedule and other key parameters. A Lean Six Sigma specialist will also support your design team throughout the remainder of the process.