Within manufacturing, lean thinking continues to drive innovation in the way business systems are arranged. The underlying principle to this has been to follow the lean concepts that simplifies the process. Simplicity drives best practice. In many ways, this is what we find at the centre of a value stream mapping exercise when we look for:
What processes add value for the customer?
What is the finished goods strategy?
Where can process steps be eliminated or combined to achieve flow?
Which process will be the pacemaker
How will workload or activities be levelled?
Designing new ways to meet the challenges can take time. In the age of cloud computing and “an app” for everything can make the task for simplifying more difficult. There is a place for technology to help arrange information and to track large amounts of data. A few months ago we were helping a company implement improvements to the production system and one of the key outcomes for the value stream mapping was the need to implement an ERP system as a priority.
The need to control and report from a screen is widespread within manufacturing, engineering and finance groups, especially when there’s a perception that a process is out of control. Management by computer reporting may lead to improvements and address the out of control process with better visibility. However, this leads to huge investments in software systems and talent that are generally designed to do too much and over analyse or schedule every minor detail.
Before addressing improvement with a complicated software solution, first, seek to simplify and optimised the business systems. The need to analyse and schedule every minor detail of a process may turn out not to be necessary after all.
Implementing a software solution can lead to a less than perfect outcome without doing lean manufacturing first, as you may be adding to the problem when the new system is introduced to oversee a broken process. Taking the time to correct or make a process as simple as possible in the beginning will often eliminate, or hold off, the need for software systems.
A recent TXM best-practice audit of lean-oriented companies found that they have focused on lean production processes and have set in place simple systems, that rely on simple solutions such as:
Visual pull/kanban cards
Visual management boards
Simplified problem-solving methods
Two bin stock replacement
Daily team leader standard work
By following the value stream mapping approach to understand the overview of business systems and looking to remove wastes, it allows for the creation and modification of processes that are simpler to set up, use and report on while the process is done, across all levels of the business. So before you head into implementing any software system, consider how you can simplify your current processes first.