Lean Manufacturing: converters and suppliers look for new ways to drive efficiency and reduce waste.

Author:Hrinya, Greg

It's no secret that businesses want to make more money for themselves and their customers. In the labels and packaging space, Lean Manufacturing is a process designed to promote efficiency throughout the workplace. In this case, time is money.

The goal of Lean Manufacturing is to perform tasks smarter, thereby reducing waste and increasing delivery times and productivity. According to the Lean Enterprise Research Center (LERC), 60% of production activities in a typical manufacturing operation are wasteful, meaning they add no value from the customer's perspective. According to a recent TEKLYNX survey, over 30% of end users indicated they continue to struggle with lean labeling. In addition, over 60% of respondents noted having manual printing steps in their labeling process that could be eliminated with print automation.

"A lot of people think that Lean Manufacturing is a concept that simply belongs in the plant," explains Thomas Dahbura, president of Hub Labels. "Some of the biggest improvements that you can make are on the front office and accounting side. That's money going right to the bottom line."

There are many different lean philosophies, including 6S, 5Y, fishbone diagrams, process mapping and value-stream mapping, as well as Kaizen. The 6S model-formerly known as 5S-incorporates the following principles: sort, straighten, shine, standardize, sustain and safety. Safety was the most recently-added element.

The 5S workflow chart is designed to distinguish what is needed and what is superfluous in a business, before finding a proper location for all of a company's needed items. Keeping everything clean and ordered is a driving principle, and the business subsequently works hard to enforce these lean philosophies. The 5Y methodology-also known as 5 Why-implores lean practitioners to ask "why" something is the way that it is, ultimately seeking out the root cause of an organizational deficiency.

Meanwhile, Kaizen creates a culture of continuous improvement, where employees work together to develop new and better ideas to increase productivity. Setting goals, making improvements and formulating action plans are all part of the Kaizen model. Employees are encouraged to think differently about how they work.

Customers are key in the Lean Manufacturing process, as well. Often times, customers will receive better lead times and smaller minimum purchase requirements.

"With lean you start with the customer demand schedule, identifying what they need and when," says Tony Cook, CEO at Great Lakes Label. "You need to know this information to best implement your own internal lean changes, and as an organization you will become much more engaged with your customer and their needs. Our customers have expressed a large satisfaction with our lean initiatives. In fact, many of our customers have lean initiatives of their own, so they like to work together on these projects because they know the benefits to an organization first-hand. And most customers like to see their supply chain...

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