Now SMBs Can Get Lean with Barcode Software

Lean Manufacturing can be described as the art of doing more with less through the reduction of waste. A simpler description is “organized common sense”. The objective is to specify the value you add, identify the value stream, make products flow at the rate of customer demand, and constantly strive to improve.

Unfortunately, for many small businesses, the benefits of lean manufacturing are just out of reach. This is because lean transformation is not as easy as it is to write about. Additionally, implementing lean usually requires a significant investment in expert guidance and training from more experienced lean practitioners. If this is you, there is still hope.

Why Small Manufacturing Companies Need Lean

Even if you can’t create an enterprise level strategy by hiring an expert to guide your lean transformation, you can enjoy benefits from the application of lean basics in your organization.

Becoming lean is about removing the fat, and a good place to start is by learning to identify where you have waste in your organization. If you are a small or medium sized manufacturer and want to get started, do some research on basic lean concepts like waste removal and 5 S and “Just Do It”. Don’t stress over making mistakes. Instead learn from them and continually move forward with your journey.

Waste is any activity that does not add value from your customer’s perspective but yet is built into your costs. Often, waste manifests itself in the form of interruptions in the flow of material or information through your business and should be targeted for removal. This is a never-ending process of taking the fat out of your organization.

How to Apply Lean Principles

Eventually you will want to “see” your process. In a manufacturing environment it’s common for a team to create a value stream map or work flow diagram which helps provide a common understanding of what is actually happening on the shop floor and can highlight problems by making them visual.

Collecting the right data can greatly enhance your ability to make fact-based decisions. Your analysis is no better than the integrity of the data you collect so using barcode software where possible provides you with accurate and timely data, reducing the time to manually collect data and the associated transcription errors.

When key data (captured by your auto-id software) and observed data are added to your map, it can become a powerful analysis tool. Using this tool and the lean tool kit, you can create flow through your business and let customer demand dictate your pace of production. This will shorten customer lead time, reduce inventory requirements and improve your customer experience.

About the Author – Dennis McDermott

Dennis McDermott functioned as the Master Black-Belt in Six Sigma for PACCAR Inc., Microsoft and Flow International. With over 20 year of experience in Lean and Six Sigma operational excellence, Dennis is respected as an expert in his field. In his spare time he enjoys cycling, golfing and guest blogging for Dynamic Systems.


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image credit: Salim Virji