Should risk managers delve into Lean Manufacturing, or similar methods, at all? One of the key themes in this blog is the necessity for risk managers to expand their view and gain a seat at the planning table. It is only natural, after implementing risk assessment methods, to feel that one might add value by seeking better productivity.
There is a broader agenda here. The very survival of manufacturing and service industries is continually challenged, and the opportunities for gains are immense, both in administrative and industrial processes.
Planning and Innovation – Small-Medium Sized Enterprise
I am Planning and Innovation Lead for a small-medium sized enterprise in specialty metals manufacturing. I can say that experience with risk methods stands you in good stead as an innovator. It is all about presenting a value proposition, whether you want to focus on a standardization program, quality initiative, productivity or process efficiency.
In my case, the general manager started with the company at about the same time I did (early 2012), and we initiated a move to strategic planning and Lean manufacturing. We have about 90 employees, revenues are growing, and things are just at a critical juncture in the evolution of the firm. We must decide to either adopt professional management practices, or languish — and perhaps get overtaken.
Risk Managers see Where Value Lies
I was first hired at the firm as a mechanical designer. They took me in readily as I had already worked for them years ago, except that this time, the new GM put me in charge of the 4-person CAD design team. So my career as innovator started as CAD Design Supervisor. Production was behind; the shop foreman was continually demanding drawings for the shop; we could never keep up; the drawings issue procedure was ad hoc; and mistakes were common.
I didn’t know it at the time, but I think I had “Lean Manufacturing” somehow already stamped in my brain. Believe me, Lean doesn’t mean getting rid of people, it means improving the grade and quality of their work. Here’s how we did it on our team:
1. Got rid of stacks of dusty 20-year old parts catalogues, keeping the good text references on a smaller shelf (Sorting);
2. Installed a drawings schedule white board, coordinated with the master production schedule;
3. Started a drawings standards board, capturing corrected information (Standardize);
4. Issued drawings to a multi-level rack (Kanban);
5. Created a folder+index for each job, with the entire inventory of technical drawings checked and signed off;
6. Reduced drains on our productivity: stopped signing for deliveries; outsourced repetitive pattern drawings.
Continuing the Lean Journey
We are fortunate to be building upon a foundation of unique competencies: our engineers are innovators and first class customer service persons; our fabricators are craftsmen. The challenge is to do everything possible — within the scope of what you can influence — to become a world-class manufacturer. The exciting thing about it is that it challenges you in every way: people management; technical skill; organizational abilities.
I believe our situation is common to that of many SMEs, and other public and private organizations; namely, we have administrative and technical processes crying out for improvement.