Custom Injection Molding and Lean Manufacturing
Plastic injection molders are in an ideal business to benefit from the lean manufacturing process. If you embrace the entire concept and do not cherry pick the parts that are quick and easy, you will most certainly experience improvements in your operation.
The lean manufacturing process is an integrated approach to reducing waste. It could be time or material or anything else; waste is waste and waste equals money in business. It requires a shift in thinking to approach efficiency from this vantage point, rather than always striving to do more, do it faster, do it better.
Implementing six sigma requires that management is dedicated to making it work in the long run. Employees are often cynical toward new programs because, in the past, many programs amounted to little more than slogans and banners.
Using a six sigma consulting firm is a good idea, once you have educated yourself in the basic principles. The time and expense of hiring an outside consultant will pay off handsomely over time. If you have the personnel to manage your six sigma implementation in-house, that’s even better, though they will certainly need some additional training.
5S training will give you a huge boost in your lean manufacturing process. This is because the results are so immediate and visible. Everyone likes having the tools they need, the materials in the proper place with labels, and a general atmosphere of everything in its place.
It is relatively easy to get your employees to go along with a 5S program. Within a week you will see changes in your production area and the attitude of everyone. Find the key people, train them, give them the authority and communicate with the entire workforce in order to avoid grumbling and confusion.
When you conduct a kaizen blitz, or event, you pick an area or a process and focus exclusively on it. This is a great way to make progress and get people involved because it is by nature short and intense. It is a bit like cleaning up your kitchen before your mother-in-law comes for a visit! You hyper-focus on one area after another until the whole is done.
One drawback though with a kaizen blitz is that it can be mistakenly understood to be the entire process. It is just a component and it should be regarded as such. If it becomes the program, you will not really change the culture or become much more efficient in your operation.
How to Get Going
It is a good idea to talk to successful shop owners who have benefited from the lean manufacturing process. You will find them enthusiastic and quite willing to open up, for the most part. You should also read and gather information so you can make wise decisions rather than totally rely on the opinion of a consultant. In the end, you will certainly need outside help, but you also need a thorough understanding of the process yourself.