With such diversities as GE, Toyota, and Sealy, many major corporations use lean manufacturing in their plants and facilities. This practice, according to USA Today's Paul Davidson, is responsible for helping thousands of companies remain profitable in spite of economic recession. The efficiencies these corporations found by using lean manufacturing have allowed for many cost-saving benefits. At the head of these initiatives are lean experts.
Lean manufacturing is the elimination of waste from industrial practice. Lean entails looking at the whole scope of an organization and finding inefficient or repetitive movement and eliminating these redundancies from a manufacturing process. This corporate ideology reduces wasted time and energy, thereby increasing productivity while cutting costs to the company.
The origins of lean manufacturing are widely attributed to two of the major automakers, according to Strategos-International. Both Ford Motor Company and Toyota played instrumental roles in developing this corporate ideology. Henry Ford was the early pioneer and his production system of continuous motion had become the basis for production in the rise of the industrial age.
After World War II, executives at Toyota began to implement Ford's principles at their own plant in Japan. They saw the role inventory played in an efficient organization and focused their efforts on reducing the time spent for changeover. This allowed for small batches to be produced in an almost continuous flow. A handful of writers took the Japanese process and recorded it in English-language books.
A lean expert is a person who has studied and trained in the ideology of lean manufacturing. Often, belt levels are assigned, much as they are in martial arts. A novice in lean will often be referred to as a "yellow belt" and an expert a "black belt." Lean experts are either employed or contracted by a company to implement lean manufacturing in an attempt to improve the organization's efficiency and change the corporate mindset to one which is more cognizant of wasted motion.
The tools used by a lean expert are not of the physical variety, but they do serve to help achieve the goal of increasing efficiency. One such tool is kaizen. Kaizen is Japanese for "improvement" and, in the lean world, refers to employees being given the resources to solve problems, as defined in the Window and Door industry glossary. A Kaizen event typically entails employees from various areas of the company coming together and looking at a problem together.
Another lean tool is the concept of 5S. This involves: sorting, shining, setting in order, standardizing and sustaining the physical tools needed to complete a job. This makes finding the proper tools needed to achieve a task simpler, thereby reducing time wasted looking for them.
The main benefit to being a lean expert is that it allows a tremendous degree of career flexibility and mobility. Lean experts are employed in a variety of manufacturing fields. These fields range from automotive to medical equipment to mattresses. And the organizations which use lean principles can be found throughout the world. By establishing experience in the field, an individual sets himself in a position to learn and see firsthand how a wide variety of goods are produced.
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