Thursday, December 4, 2008

Lean Manufacturing

When you're building products for customers, whether it be southwestern jewelry, cars or books, you sometimes come to feel as though you could do a better job. Confidence as a manufacturer is rooted in how your customers perceive your product quality and how efficiently you were able to make your products at that quality level. Because we want to do a better job, because we want to waste less, Relios is beginning to implement a lean manufacturing program here in our Albuquerque factory. Our first pilot project is our "Today's Special Value" piece for QVC that is going to be featured in March 2009.

Model Carving

What is Lean Manufacturing?
Started at Toyota just after World War II, Lean Manufacturing focuses on building better customer value by addressing deficiencies or bottlenecks in the production process. So, Lean doesn't mean layoffs. It means reorganizing processes and efficiently using your staff to accomplish your goals.

Toyota focused on Muda, activities which don't add value, are unproductive, or prone to be wasteful. By reducing these kinds of activities, a manufacturer could reduce costs and increase quality in their products. Toyota's Chief Engineer, Taiichi Ohno, identified the "seven wastes": defects, overproduction, conveyance, waiting, inventory, motion, and overprocessing.[article]


By reducing wasteful activities and integrating quality assurance into the process stream, a manufacturer can improve their quality and their speed.

Lean at Relios
After taking several classes in implementing Lean Manufacturing, our team leads took a deeper interest in the flow of our manufacturing process. After studying our process in greater detail, it was decided that we would take what we've learned about Lean Manufacturing and apply it to the production of the March "Today's Special Value" item.

Production Leads in Class

The production team mapped out the entire process from creating the original model to shipping and focused on several key factors for each of the 60 steps such as cycle time, change-over time, equipment reliability, and part quality. What came from this exercise are things like more precise scheduling and more consideration for preventative maintenance.

Process Map

We were also interested in how Lean Manufacturing impacted training. We have used the Lean Manufacturing training timetable to look at our staff as skilled resources and in which areas they can be used to what degree. This will allow us to allocate staff to alleviate bottlenecks in future production.

We've been really pleased to see that the production leads have been interested in applying the tools and concepts of Lean Manufacturing. We expect it to lead to more efficient production and higher overall quality in our jewelry. Meanwhile, be sure to check out our current line of Sincerely Southwest® jewelry on, find complementing jewelry collections on the Relios homepage.

No comments: