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Lean Companies Do Productive Work
MISSISSIPPI STATE -- Mississippi businesses fighting a never- ending battle to stay competitive got some help from specialists brought to a conference at Mississippi State University.
Thirty-two Mississippi manufacturers were represented at MSU's Extension Service Food and Fiber Center's Lean Manufacturing Conference in September. They came to learn ways to reduce waste and increase profitability in manufacturing, a concept known as lean manufacturing.
"We got interested in lean manufacturing because we spend a lot of time out on the manufacturing floor in plants around the state, and we see many manufacturers that are not employing the latest processes," said Duane Motsenbocker, Extension management specialist and conference coordinator. "We wanted to bring these current practices to the attention of plant managers and manufacturing managers."
Tom Dossenbach, managing director of an international operations management and productivity consulting firm serving woodworking industries, was one of the speakers. He explained the five steps of workplace management for continuous improvement. This is only one of many processes that make up lean manufacturing.
"This work management plan is called the 5S plan and it gets everyone involved," Dossenbach said. "The letters stand for sort, straighten, scrub, standardize and sustain."
For increased efficiency, the workplace must be sorted and all unnecessary materials removed. Unnecessary items include excess inventory, obsolete materials and machinery, tools out of place and work in progress.
Straighten what remains in a logical and orderly manner for efficient use of space.
"Rearrange machinery in tight work cells, paint and remark the area, and paint new aisles," Dossenbach said. "Give everything a place and keep it there."
Scrub everything, cleaning overhead areas, walls, floors and machinery, and keeping machinery in good working order.
"You need to see the machinery so it can be maintained correctly," Dossenbach said. "You can't see a problem develop if the machinery is not clean."
Dossenbach said standardization applies to all aspects of manufacturing, including policies, schedules and storage. These should be written standards.
The fifth S is for sustain, or the need to constantly improve and be committed to becoming a lean manufacturer. Manufacturers should continually work through these steps to be more efficient.
Benefits of following this process include lower costs, less space requirements and more usable space, higher percentage of on- time deliveries and fewer accidents.
Ron Ussery, vice president of manufacturing for Viking Range in Greenwood, said his company began implementing lean manufacturing five years ago. In that span, they shortened the time needed to deliver an ordered product from 22 weeks to seven or eight days, sometimes less.
"In Greenwood and a lot of areas in the state, a lot of jobs are being lost to Mexico," Ussery said. "We need to be more competitive. As manufacturers, we've been lazy and the consumers are having to pay for the extra cost of us being inefficient."
Ussery said interest in lean manufacturing is growing across the state, but manufacturers need to learn more about how to apply these processes.
Jake Spears, a fabrication and supply manager at La-Z-Boy in Leland, said his company put in a pilot lean line three years ago. The line produces 1,000 units a week, and the first year it was modified, saved the company $20,000.
"We've got to stay lean to be competitive," Spears said.
Motsenbocker said because of manufacturers' interest, the Food and Fiber Center anticipates offering a similar conference next year.