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Limit waste, time for best efficiency
MISSISSIPPI STATE -- Companies trying to remain competitive look for every way to be more efficient and increase profits, and one way to do that is to become lean.
Lean production is a concept learned from Japanese automaker Toyota that emphasizes producing more with less effort, raw materials, space and waste. It is also a concept being taught by the Food and Fiber Center at Mississippi State University's Extension Service.
Duane Motsenbocker, Extension management specialist, coordinated the 2001 Lean Manufacturing Conference Sept. 10 to 12 in Starkville. The goal of the conference was to help organizations become lean and create value while eliminating waste. This is the second year MSU has offered such a conference.
"Other than the automotive industry, most of the rest of the manufacturing in the country is just learning about lean manufacturing," Motsenbocker said. "The results they're finding are phenomenal in the reduction of cost and the reduction of inventory. That really causes manufacturers to take an interest."
In addition to two days of lectures, workshops and case studies, the conference began with organized tours of Delphi and Mercedes-Benz in Tuscaloosa or Viking Range in Greenwood.
Motsenbocker said there is a growing interest in Mississippi and the South in lean manufacturing concepts. The conference drew 128 participants representing manufacturers and industries in eight states.
Carlton Hamilton, operations/sales manager with Thomas & Betts Co., in Byhalia, said he came to the conference to learn how to apply lean manufacturing concepts to his company's distribution system.
"We decided we could do this better. We're way ahead of our competition, and this is the way for us to stay ahead," Hamilton said.
The company makes and distributes electrical parts and started implementing lean concepts last month.
Rick Harris, president of Harris Lean Systems Inc., taught conference attendees in one session about creating continuous flow in manufacturing operations. He emphasized the importance of inches and seconds in making processes more efficient, and reducing the incidental effort required to accomplish value added work.
"This will be the hardest thing you've ever done to go from mass to lean, but it's the most rewarding thing you'll ever do," Harris told industry representatives in the session.
He focused attention on planning and accommodating efficient work in cells on a production line. He said information, materials, and people and processes must flow together in lean manufacturing operations.
Another important aspect is designing an environment that promotes efficient work. Simpler machines that require less maintenance and do single chores are more desirable than complex machinery that does several processes but is harder to maintain and causes scheduling problems when it is down.
"Maintain a consistent, predictable production pace with minimum downtime," Harris said.