10 questions to help understand efficiency problems

If Lean manufacturing is initiated with the wrong problems in mind, the problem is exacerbated rather than improved. Here are ten questions aimed at helping uncover the true source of causes.

07/08/2015


If Lean had been initiated with the wrong problems in mind, it would only have served to exacerbate the problem, not improve it. Here are ten questions aimed at helping you uncover the true source of causes. Courtesy: CFE Media

A business owner recently asked questions about how Lean manufacturing might help his business. During the discussion, he shared that his product line of automotive aftermarket products had grown so significantly that his team was forced to do shorter and shorter production runs to meet rapidly growing demand for each stock keeping unit. He asked how Lean might help his team become more efficient at changeovers in order to reduce downtime and produce consistently high-quality products. After discussing it further and viewing the operation firsthand, it was clear that improving changeover times was not the primary issue that needed to be addressed. Instead, the business owner should be introducing better means to control the flow and management of inventory. 

However, if Lean had been initiated with the wrong problems in mind, it would have exacerbated the problem rather than improve it. In this case, mapping out the changeover process, running kaizen events, and improved the flow and efficiency of the process would have resulted in constant inventory shortages. This would have shut down the line and created even more downtime. When it comes to efficiency, are you looking at the real causes of your efficiency problems, or simply accepting the obvious as the source of all evils?

Questions to ask while assessing efficiency problems

When working to uncover the true source of problems in flow and production, ask these questions while assessing and interviewing those who are involved:

  • What are the input and output processes or steps that influence or impact this process?
  • How do the processes and steps that lead into this process function? Are they effective?
  • What bottlenecks exist within the process now? What do you think is their cause?
  • In what situations do these bottlenecks or delays occur? When are they not occurring?
  • What would you change in this process that would help you be more effective?
  • How else might this process be improved?
  • Why do you think these issues or challenges exist? How long have they been in place?
  • What evidence do you have to support the frequency and impact of these delays or challenges?
  • What else do you think I should look into that would make this process flow more smoothly?
  • Who else involved or affected in this process should I speak to?

What you believe might be the problem often is not and by digging deeper into the process variables, steps and interacting with those involved, you will create a much better understanding of the root causes behind the challenges. This, in turn, provides you with a starting point for your assessment and Lean implementation.

Lean isn't a popularity contest. You can just take someone else's word for what the issues are so as to avoid rocking the boat, or you can dig deep to gain a real understanding of the drivers behind the inefficiencies.

Shawn Casemore is the president and founder of Casemore and Company, a management consultancy helping organizations globally to improve organizational performance and build financial strength. This article originally appeared on AME Target Online Magazine. AME is a CFE Media content partner. Edited by Joy Chang, digital project manager, Plant Engineering, jchang@cfemedia.com.



Top Plant
The Top Plant program honors outstanding manufacturing facilities in North America.
Product of the Year
The Product of the Year program recognizes products newly released in the manufacturing industries.
System Integrator of the Year
Each year, a panel of Control Engineering and Plant Engineering editors and industry expert judges select the System Integrator of the Year Award winners in three categories.
June 2018
2018 Lubrication Guide, Motor and maintenance management, Control system migration
May 2018
Electrical standards, robots and Lean manufacturing, and how an aluminum packaging plant is helping community growth.
April 2018
2017 Product of the Year winners, retrofitting a press, IMTS and Hannover Messe preview, natural refrigerants, testing steam traps
June 2018
Machine learning, produced water benefits, programming cavity pumps
April 2018
ROVs, rigs, and the real time; wellsite valve manifolds; AI on a chip; analytics use for pipelines
February 2018
Focus on power systems, process safety, electrical and power systems, edge computing in the oil & gas industry
Spring 2018
Burners for heat-treating furnaces, CHP, dryers, gas humidification, and more
April 2018
Implementing a DCS, stepper motors, intelligent motion control, remote monitoring of irrigation systems
February 2018
Setting internal automation standards

Annual Salary Survey

After two years of economic concerns, manufacturing leaders once again have homed in on the single biggest issue facing their operations:

It's the workers—or more specifically, the lack of workers.

The 2017 Plant Engineering Salary Survey looks at not just what plant managers make, but what they think. As they look across their plants today, plant managers say they don’t have the operational depth to take on the new technologies and new challenges of global manufacturing.

Read more: 2017 Salary Survey

The Maintenance and Reliability Coach's blog
Maintenance and reliability tips and best practices from the maintenance and reliability coaches at Allied Reliability Group.
One Voice for Manufacturing
The One Voice for Manufacturing blog reports on federal public policy issues impacting the manufacturing sector. One Voice is a joint effort by the National Tooling and Machining...
The Maintenance and Reliability Professionals Blog
The Society for Maintenance and Reliability Professionals an organization devoted...
Machine Safety
Join this ongoing discussion of machine guarding topics, including solutions assessments, regulatory compliance, gap analysis...
Research Analyst Blog
IMS Research, recently acquired by IHS Inc., is a leading independent supplier of market research and consultancy to the global electronics industry.
Marshall on Maintenance
Maintenance is not optional in manufacturing. It’s a profit center, driving productivity and uptime while reducing overall repair costs.
Lachance on CMMS
The Lachance on CMMS blog is about current maintenance topics. Blogger Paul Lachance is president and chief technology officer for Smartware Group.
Electrical Safety Update
This digital report explains how plant engineers need to take greater care when it comes to electrical safety incidents on the plant floor.
Maintenance & Safety
The maintenance journey has been a long, slow trek for most manufacturers and has gone from preventive maintenance to predictive maintenance.
IIoT: Machines, Equipment, & Asset Management
Articles in this digital report highlight technologies that enable Industrial Internet of Things, IIoT-related products and strategies.
Randy Steele
Maintenance Manager; California Oils Corp.
Matthew J. Woo, PE, RCDD, LEED AP BD+C
Associate, Electrical Engineering; Wood Harbinger
Randy Oliver
Control Systems Engineer; Robert Bosch Corp.
Data Centers: Impacts of Climate and Cooling Technology
This course focuses on climate analysis, appropriateness of cooling system selection, and combining cooling systems.
Safety First: Arc Flash 101
This course will help identify and reveal electrical hazards and identify the solutions to implementing and maintaining a safe work environment.
Critical Power: Hospital Electrical Systems
This course explains how maintaining power and communication systems through emergency power-generation systems is critical.
click me