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Making Lean Work

(February 2007) posted on Sun Feb 25, 2007

Committing to lean manufacturing can be an intimidating proposition for those who aren't prepared for change. This article explains how implementing lean step-by-step can benefit print providers.

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By Les deHamer

Completing an impact assessment or similar analysis will help you identify targets for improvement. In the early stages, the opportunities for improvement can be considered low-hanging fruit, due to the relative ease with which they're identified and harvested. These opportunities are then examined using a non-subjective analysis method, and decisions are made about which of these potential projects best aligns itself with the future corporate goals and existing values. Let me share a case study that illustrates the power of these impact assessments and the subsequent projects.

On a recent visit to a large- and medium-format P-O-P printer the opening discussion with their vice president of operations revealed that they had a goal of reducing setup time, thereby opening up more press time and ultimately leading to an increase in sales that would help them meet their growth target of 10% in 2008. Another strategic goal they had for 2008 was reducing the amount of re-work jobs and goods lost or damaged in the assembly/packing area.

The first part of the impact assessment was to gather data. These data were then reviewed by subject matter experts to best decide the course of action in accordance with corporate goals and the need for successful projects. Methods used to gather the data included a time study, spaghetti diagram, 5S evaluations, and a small process map. The actual findings of the time study are presented in Table 1. As we can see, the press crew spends a large amount of time looking for product (ink, screens, and tools), as well as cleaning up from the previous job.

One of the fundamentals of lean manufacturing that can be applied to the printing world is the concept of value added time (VAT). By definition, the term refers to a process that changes the form or function of an object. So in our case study, VAT is only that time when the press is printing onto the substrate -- all the other time is non-value-added time. It is apparent from the time study that 117:15 minutes per changeover has a lot of room for improvement.


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