Businesses in our community and across the world are cutting their own waste to operate in a more cost-effective and environmentally sensitive fashion. In addition to making their processes more efficient, they are looking for ways to reuse and recycle the waste they do generate. This process is called lean manufacturing, and it benefits BRING and all of you (as well as the companies in question). Some of BRING’s largest material donations come from light industrial, construction, and demolition companies.
Lean manufacturing keeps valuable materials out of the waste stream, but it is also changing the way many people view waste. It helps them understand that “waste” is not really waste. Instead, it’s a valuable asset that can have a second chance at life if it ends up in the right hands.
What is Lean Manufacturing?
In its most basic form, lean manufacturing systematically eliminates waste from all aspects of operations. It entails a paradigm shift where waste is viewed as any loss of a resource that does not lead directly to the creation of a product or service on demand. In many industrial processes, such nonvalue-added actions account for 90 percent of a factory’s total activity.
Nationwide, companies of varying size across multiple industry sectors, primarily in the manufacturing and service sectors, are implementing lean production systems. Companies engage in lean manufacturing for three reasons that combine to boost company profits and competitiveness: reducing production resource requirements and costs; increasing customer responsiveness; and improving product quality.
Why Lean Manufacturing Works
Lean produces an operational and cultural environment that is highly conducive to waste minimization and pollution prevention. Lean focuses on continually improving resource productivity and production efficiency—reducing material, capital, energy, and waste for every unit of production. In addition, lean fosters a systemic, employee-involved, continual improvement culture, where suggestions come from the bottom up.
Eugene-based Peterson Pacific Corporation manufactures grinders, chippers, debarkers, screens, and blower trucks to serve biomass markets throughout the U.S., Australia, and Canada. Peterson started evaluating Lean as a viable business process tool in 2008. As a first step, the company looked at takt time—the rate at which a product needs to be finished in order to meet customer demand. A takt time of five minutes means every five minutes a complete product, assembly, or machine rolls off the line because on average a customer is buying a finished product every five minutes.
Peterson realized the cycle time on various products was longer than the sell rate, leading to costs that were not accounted for when machines were priced. To fix the problem, Peterson looked at its assembly line to determine where processes could be streamlined and a takt time created.
The firm reorganized assembly lines and moved them closer to reduce metal handling and lifting; installed hydraulic lifts to automate the lifting and moving of heavy machine parts; built and color coded tool racks for each unit to eliminate time loss. A vendor-managed inventory of tools and supplies contributed to lower inventory costs and aided in tighter security of gloves and specialty equipment like drills and bits.
“At Peterson, our starting premise is that we want to build to demand, with less inventory, and to provide customers with equipment that is zero defect at competitive costs at the right time,” says Robert Crist, the company’s production manager. “Lean isn’t just for larger manufacturing companies. Hospitals, automotive industries, food processors have all benefited from implementing lean principles.”
More information about lean manufacturing is available here.