Sunday, March 26, 2023
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Can lean manufacturing work in the job shop?

Toyota’s lean manufacturing model, made famous in the 30a, may not seem to be a business model that the metal industry would necessarily embrace. However, one North Carolina manufacturer of construction equipment has apparently done just that. The company’s modus operandi is for customer bids to create workflow. Little by way of raw materials or finished items are on hand. One reviewer of the business site described the company’s encapsulation of lean manufacturing principals as both “elegant” and “simple.” The reviewer noted that the plant had systemic and obvious value streams. Moreover, many workers were multifunctional, trained to fit into any portion of the operation. Though job shops are not typically a best-fit for lean manufacturing, because it favors high volume, low mix operations, that is operations that do not have a giant product line, but tend to crunch out high numbers of a specific item. Nonetheless, by concentrating on process, rather than parts, by eliminating waste and maximizing worker value, these businesses can make a real go of lean manufacturing.

Key Takeaways:

  • Dyke Messinger runs Power Curbers Inc., a construction equipment manufacturer north of Charlotte, N.C., long devoted to lean manufacturing.
  • The plant is separated neatly into clearly defined value streams, through which every component flows.
  • In classical lean, unlike machines are grouped together to produce one part or part family. The approach avoids sharing resources between product lines to avoid bottlenecks.

“Many employees are cross-trained on all processes, able to fill in whenever and wherever needed. Altogether, I thought it was one of the simplest, most elegant pictures of lean manufacturing I had ever seen.”

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