by Keith Loria
, Reporter | March 04, 2009
Reiss says that it wasn't easy and it took about two years for things to get rolling, but now that it has, everything is improving. One product line even went from an average delivery time of five months to four weeks.
"Since we have incorporated lean manufacturing, and we are getting better and better at it, every single part of what lean teaches you has happened," he says. "Our inventories have dropped dramatically, our on-time delivery has increased dramatically. Our quality has increased, our costs have lowered. Sales have gone up and we have the same number of people that we had five years ago. We have been very fortunate."
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One of the primary focuses of lean manufacturing is to eliminate waste - anything that does not add value to the final product gets eliminated. Therefore, large inventories which require costly storage spaces are seen as a type of waste that carries with it a high cost.
In addition to eliminating waste, lean manufacturing seeks to provide optimum quality by building in a method whereby each part is examined immediately after manufacture, and if there is a defect, the production line stops so that the problem can be corrected immediately.
"The people at the top teach but anyone at the company is empowered to make changes. Any person here can decide to call a meeting and fix a problem," Reiss says. "We even have lights that will indicate where an assembly worker has stopped a line because they need to solve a problem. We don't put a Band-Aid on a problem; we fix it so it never happens again."
This philosophy helps to empower workers, and allows for production decisions at any level. It's based on the belief that those closest to production have the greatest knowledge of how the production system should work.
"We're taught lean is a journey of continuous improvement, a journey with no destination. However, the lean journey does have a destination, and a road map to get there as well. It's all about Operational Excellence," Duggan says. "This is achieved by creating an environment where each and every employee can see the flow of value to the customer, and fix that flow before it breaks down."
This impacts the medical device manufacturers by creating a robust quality and delivery system and an internal "immune system" in the production of these products.
Medtronic Xomed has been using lean principals for almost a decade, implementing a system called Lean Sigma, with an approach aimed at finding better ways to serve its customers and patients.