Lear Corp. proves committed to lean manufacturing system.

Position:Quality in manufacturing

Lean manufacturing processes have resulted in major productivity improvements and cost savings for Lear Corporation, a global supplier of automotive seating sys terns, electrical distribution systems, and electronic products.

Speaking at the Automotive Manufacturing Solutions (AMS) Global Conference in Dearborn, MI, Tony Coomer, the company's vice president of advanced manufacturing and continuous improvement-Seating Systems, says lean manufacturing techniques have been deployed throughout the company's global manufacturing network.

Based in Southfield, MI, Lear world-class products are designed, engineered, and manufactured by a diverse team of more than 90,000 employees at 236 locations in 33 countries.

"Lear's commitment to 'Total Lean Behavior' produces high-quality products more efficiently," Coomer says, adding that the Lear Manufacturing System (LMS) relies on employee involvement and a commitment to efficient product design.

Implementation involves a focus on improving:

* Work environment

* Overall quality

* Plant layouts

* Material flow.

Lear employees are trained on LMS during a three-week workshop. The training is conducted at all Lear plants by a "lean manufacturing leader," and employees receive LMS certification upon successful understanding of LMS principles and validation of model line projects which deploy LMS.

"Our training program is designed to develop synergy between plants, empower people to make changes, and create value for customers and shareholders," Coomer explains. "It has enabled us to establish a common and consistent lean manufacturing strategy throughout the company."

Design in mind

Product design is another key element in Lear's Lean Manufacturing System. Product design teams rely on LMS principles to ensure products can be manufactured in a lean environment. Approximately two-thirds of product costs are locked into the initial design of the product, Coomer notes, so any effort to reduce cost after the initial design stage can only influence the remaining one-third of the product's overall cost.

At one facility, for example, product design teams incorporating design for lean principles in a model year change realigned workstations, change production flows, and make other assembly-line changes to boost productivity.

Additionally, improvements in the workplace environment (or "World Class Housekeeping" practices) have...

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