Building lean plants and processes from the start

When businesses build manufacturing facilities or upgrade existing capacity they usually incorporate the latest technology, manufacturing techniques and equipment. Some of these capital projects are rushed or under resourced which leads to little thought being given to the process management, material and people movement, process and spares standardization , manual handling and operator requirements making the new plant and system inefficient, costly to operate and will fail to deliver the intended return on capital invested. Brown field plant expansions have a greater risk of ending with these types of problems as they require greater attention to detail in integrating the new components and plant with the existing plant, site layout, unforseen requirements and material movements. Issues such as these can easily overshadow the advantage of incorporating many of the lean manufacturing techniques and concepts , some of these that can be incorporated at an early design and build stage of a plant are:

 ABC Warehousing
 Efficient Inventory management systems and layouts
 Streamlined flow of materials and value adding paths
-Standardized plant spares and procedures for maintenance
 Efficient office layouts
 Elimination of waste through inefficient plant and equipment
-Elimination of waste through ease of quality management and flexible processes
-Elimination of known or potential bottlenecks

These are some of the issues and lean manufacturing principles that are easier to pick up and change at the design and building stages of a new production plant. They may, depending on the industry and environment add up to an extra 10-15% extra to capital cost to build or upgrade the plant and a slightly longer payback period, but the long term benefits are reaped by both operators and shareholders alike.
It is also important to review the design proposals with the teams that will be operating the plant and have in depth knowledge about the process, this can be done by holding different types of meetings and reviews such as:

-Initial plant design and layout concepts (Including Lean principles)
 FMEA’s and Hazard identification
-Machinery and process selection
-Final design reviews (including CAD models)
-Post build reviews and commissioning meetings

These meetings should be chaired by the team working specifically on the project but heavily involve plant team members, management, and suppliers if relevant.

Building or upgrading an existing production facility is never an easy task, but with consideration to creating a safe, efficient and low cost plant by the use of the many lean manufacturing concepts and techniques right form the start will see the business succeed and improve its advantage over competitors in the market place.

Skip to content