The concept of lean manufacturing is simple. Much like a diet for your facility, the goal is to reduce your waste (like you would your waist) for healthier operations. It’s not about starving your business because, let’s face it, you can’t run a marathon or outlast competitors without proper sustenance. Lean strategies are about taking in only what you need and making the most of it—kind of like politely pushing away a plate of food when you’re full rather than stockpiling calories for a later date.
Now I know by March many of our weight loss resolutions have run their short-lived and often unfulfilled courses, but it’s always a good time of year to take on a new style of inventory management.
How manufacturers manage inventory
Many manufacturers produce products in large runs, even when the demand for that product is low. Products are stored or kept in inventory until they are eventually sold, which often leads the manufacturer to overspend on storage. When production runs are too large, manufacturers run the risk of filling inventory with products that might become outdated and remain unsold.
Why lean strategies are more efficient
A crucial component of lean manufacturing involves controlling inventory by reducing excess production. This means implementing a system for monitoring inventory and producing products in smaller runs rather than keeping excess inventory in storage.
Wait, it takes time and money to modify the way you manage inventory and thin out the production line. But just like dropping a few pounds, the payoff doesn’t occur overnight. Soon enough, the savings from storage costs and unnecessary waste will find their way to the bottom line. It’s well worth the change—just ask Toyota, Boeing, Caterpillar, and Xerox.
Not only will lean strategies lower your overhead costs, but they will also challenge your employees to think critically to improve existing procedures. No reason to keep things the way they are just because—hopefully your facility is always on the look out for more efficient ways to operate. Plus, you won’t have to feel that little pang of guilt as you throw away perfectly good products because of bad timing.