A Winning Combination: Technology and Lean

According to a North American Mold Manufacturing Industry Status Survey from Plante & Moran (www.plantemoran.com) conducted earlier this year, a combination of technology and lean can—and has—helped mold shops reduce leadtimes and become more productive.

According to a North American Mold Manufacturing Industry Status Survey from Plante & Moran (www.plantemoran.com) conducted earlier this year, a combination of technology and lean can—and has—helped mold shops reduce leadtimes and become more productive. In order for more shops to benefit from lean, they need the right information.

There are lean definitions, principles, rules, concepts and tools according to the Lean Learning Center (Novi, MI)—an organization committed to developing leaders and learners for lean transformation, and delivering the resources and curriculum to help you learn and gain valuable new skills—but no matter what you call it or how you explain it, it’s a way of working and thinking that must be accepted and implemented throughout the entire organization.

Despite the need to investigate lean, data from the Plante & Moran survey shows a lack of understanding of lean manufacturing and what it can do for mold manufacturers: 41% of those surveyed indicated that they “know nothing” when it comes to lean manufacturing; 34% say they “do not know how to implement it”; 23% have “tried it”; and, only 2% “made it work” (see pie chart).

A related article by Jeff Mengel of Plante & Moran examines the “waste” in mold manufacturing and how in 90 percent of total mold build time, the mold is waiting for the next movement, process or approval. This is non value-added time, and lean manufacturing processes and new technology can help provide new methods for making molds so that operations become more efficient and leadtimes are reduced; however, any systems implemented need to be developed and shared throughout the entire organization in order for a shop to reap the rewards.

There are sources of lean information out there to help you obtain a better understanding of lean manufacturing and what it can do for you. Following are a few: SPE/Mold-Masters Limited Technical Symposium 2006: www. spetooling.org or www.moldmasters.com; Society of Manufacturing Engineers: www.sme.org/leandirections; or, Lean Learning Center: www.leanlearningcenter.com.

Since many of you have contacted me looking for coverage on lean manufacturing—the lean journey specific to mold manufacturing—we will be working with groups like the ones mentioned above (among others) in future issues and conferences to bring you the tools, information and recommendations you need to take your first or next step to successfully taking advantage of lean manufacturing. Feel free to visit the article archives at www.moldmakingtechnology.com to search for past coverage on lean manufacturing.

The Lean Learning Center offers a few beginning pointers on how to apply the right lean tool for a given problem by applying the five whys of problem-solving in your shop.

If your shop has a “lean” story to tell or advice to share, please feel free to drop me a line at cfuges@gardnerweb.com or call (800) 579-8809.

Here’s to being lean and mean!

Related Content

New Business Model Required For Mold Manufacturers

Annual study shows changes in the moldmaking industry and provides insight to help make the right decisions for your shop.