Lean manufacturing is a series of techniques that will improve the performance of a factory, a department or even a single production line or machine. Lean thinking in manufacturing is logical and as it is applied, it can be thought of as a journey towards a more efficient future. The techniques are based on the way in which the work is carried out, and involves changing behaviors and attitudes of the personnel so a deep understanding of motivation and culture is essential in the application of Lean thinking.
The food industry involves substantial amounts of product, produced in large batches. It requires lengthy lead times and has variability with the different growing seasons and products. The variability continues with each product, since every product has a different rate of expiration. To most, it may seem counter-intuitive to apply Lean thinking to this industry, since there are so many variables and uncertainties. But when you decipher the supply chain, the key types of waste identified in food production are very similar to those seen in other industries.
Lean Thinking in Food Manufacturing
A deeper examination of the food industry reveals waste problems in over-production, transport, wait times, inventory levels, food defects, and processing. To enhance these processes and decrease waste, continuous improvement through Lean thinking can be made to these components of the food industry. While the reasoning behind the food industry’s initial Lean delay varies according to who you ask, most Lean experts agree that Lean plays an important role in present-day food manufacturing. Progress is often driven by example. If a food manufacturer sees its competitor achieving notable results with Lean manufacturing, it almost has no choice but to follow suit. The industry is facing an explosion of product variation, serious food safety concerns, and skyrocketing raw material and transportation costs. Lean may not be the only answer, but it’s definitely part of it.
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