Second installment in webinar series focuses on process improvements through Lean 3P
In today’s fast-paced environment, manufacturers can easily be tempted to implement technology and other solutions without fully examining the “why” and “how” that drives their operation. That’s where Lean 3P comes in.
Instead of focusing on one-off solutions, the philosophy – which stands for production, preparation and process – takes a more holistic approach to improving manufacturers’ operations.
Lean 3P was the topic at hand during the second installment of the 2021 3P Approach to Total Manufacturing Management webinar series, hosted by the Michigan Manufacturing Technology Center – West (The Center-West), The Right Place and MiBiz. The webinar brought together industry experts and insiders to discuss the benefits of the Lean 3P system and advice to successfully implement those process changes in an organization.
During the webinar, Michael Ramirez, president and partner with Wyoming-based automation service provider Orka Automation, framed Lean 3P in the context of talent attraction and development.
“In today’s environment where labor is at a premium… the ability to use automation and Lean 3P in conjunction with each other to improve your process is really about improving your environment for your people,” Ramirez said. “It’s about improving their ability to do meaningful work, their ability to see themselves as part of something really special and want to stay with you as an employer.”
On the contrary, poor processes can lead to unsafe work environments, unsatisfied and underutilized talent, increased turnover and a host of other negative impacts to a company’s bottom line and margin, Ramirez said.
Overall, Lean 3P represents a powerful means of examine how a project is designed and manufactured, and guides teams through the creative process of generating ideas and implementing those ideas, said Jess Cruz, business development manager at The Center-West. The system can also eliminate the “throw it over the fence” mentality which passes problems from department to department without solving the issue, which can result in opportunity loss, conflicts of interest and a loss of focus on the customer.
THE HUMAN STRUGGLE
When working with a customer Orka, which focuses on manufacturing automation and automation inspection for an array of industries, begins by analyzing methods of reducing the “human struggle” associate with the process and suggesting solutions both upstream and downstream of the process.
For example, the firm worked with a customer to streamline the inspection process for large pieces of cut foam to reduce repetitive and wasted movement during quality control. As a result, workers avoided moving the heavy work pieces between stations multiple times. Orka also installed an in-line quality control technology, which shifted the customer’s QC process to omore proactive than reactive.
“For us it’s not about the technology,” said John Amrhein, executive vice president and partner at Orka. “Some people see automation as an end. For us, we really think our product is the process itself. We are very focused on understanding a company’s processes, understanding how people engage in those processes – and once we have a good understanding of how things are and how they should be, then we start thinking about what technology can help.”
CULTIVATING EMPLOYEE BUY IN
Webinar participants were quick to point out that Lean 3P and other process improvements are not nearly as successful without buy in from employees.
“Lean is about bringing the team together in that work area, cell or business because they know more about that work than anyone,” Ramierz said.
Cruz, of The Center-West, emphasized the importance of treating everyone as equals when discussing and implementing Lean 3P strategies into an organization. The structure of Lean 3P encourages talent development and helps create a culture where employees take ownership of the process improvements, he said.
“Invite your team members at any level of the organization to be part of your process development cycle,” Cruz said during the webinar. “Teaching the leaders and the technical front line how to do this, how to work with people, work within the rules, brings the real value of Lean 3P to the forefront.”
While automation and other technology can be powerful tools for manufacturers, Lean 3P experts suggest viewing process improvement in holistic terms, rather than attempting to solve it through technology alone.
“3P Lean and automation go together,” Ramirez said. “We have to continue to change that paradigm that this work is only done there to be done to drive profitability and productivity at the expense of the worker.”
Instead, Ramirez believes that Lean 3P and automation creates an environment where workers feel empowered through meaningful work.
“In essence it’s about how do we look at really crappy jobs within your four walls and eliminate them and take those people who are doing them, upskill them and create more meaningful work for them.”