Make It Better: A Crucial Component of Economical Manufacturing

By Dave Baumann

The need to make things better, quicker, and less costly has always existed.  From the early years of the colonies, through two world wars, to today’s competitive market place, better means and methods of satisfying customers’ needs and demands are vital to success.

Similarly, there is a need to make it better in the manufacturing arena.  Each business is directly impacted by the availability and price of energy, raw materials, water, skilled people, employee benefits, governmental regulations, waste disposal/recovery, and time. It is the constant attention, e.g. continuous improvement, to the process of converting of raw materials to finished goods that drives success and sustainability.

Continuous improvement and sustainability are important because:

  • There are pressures from stakeholders including: investors, customers, employees, suppliers, competitors, communities, state, and national governments.
  • They address three important components: economy, environment and community, while focusing on extending the viability and longevity of the business.  They own the entire life cycle of a product or service.

Continuous improvement and sustainability are valuable because when practiced, decision making becomes more efficient and resources required for reducing or correcting adverse effects are reduced.

Continuous improvement and sustainability shift the focus from a liability approach to an opportunity approach by applying both technological and non-technological solutions.

It is the drive to improve, to find the better way/new idea that has been the keystone to success for numerous business and industries.  Here’s an example:

Driven by economic conditions of 2009, a nationally known East coast gear manufacturing company realized it needed to be more competitive.  The Operations Manager formed a team with 10 associates and trained them in Lean Manufacturing. Then they learned how to apply these concepts to their work place using the classroom work and hands-on simulated situations.

One of the more valuable tools they learned was Value Stream Mapping or how to map out the existing factory’s product and process flow.  The team concluded that a change was needed in the sequence of operations for one of their main manufacturing lines and they developed a more efficient layout.

They also developed a manufacturing cell for this line consisting of a lathe, hob and deburring machine to be run by one person.  Interestingly, it involved moving a machine which had been in place for twenty years.  As a result, the manufacturing area was cleaned up, material flow improved, and inventory was reduced.   The new cell led to smaller lot sizes, opened floor space, and smaller lead times.

After this success, the team then decided to clean out their warehouse next door, removing more than 70,000 obsolete parts.

The team has since come up with 13 different projects and is helping to create cells for other production lines.  All their efforts focus on how to improve, motivating them to reach their future goal.

Understand that if you become satisfied and comfortable, the competition or other unpleasant circumstances will soon be knocking at your door.

Oak Hill Business Partners will work with you and your team to develop and execute an overall systematic approach to drive out non-value added costs.  Whether it is the processing of requests for quotes, order entry, factory paperwork, shop floor processes and flow, quality, tooling, shipping, or other factory and internal support systems, we have the expertise to support you so you can focus more effort on your core expertise.   For more information, Contact Us today.

Dave Baumann is a Partner in Oak Hill Business Partners, specializing in manufacturing engineering and operations management.  He has more than 35 years of experience in manufacturing in many industries.


Posted by Erik Owen