According to a recent survey conducted by the Society of Manufacturing Engineers (SME) in the Northeast, most small to mid-sized manufacturers identify ways they could benefit from applying lean manufacturing techniques to their operations, but only one in four are doing so.
The results of the survey show about half of the respondents from small and mid-sized organizations said they were either not aware of the advantages of lean manufacturing, not interested or did not believe they could use the principles to help their organizations. Twenty-eight percent of the respondents said they had no familiarity with lean manufacturing.
At the same time, when asked to prioritize where they had problems in their operations, respondents in small and mid-sized companies identified waste in areas that lean manufacturing specifically targets, including manufacturing processes, equipment effectiveness, setup/cycle time and general business planning and workforce development, production scheduling and inventory management.
The survey also revealed a gap in knowledge about lean manufacturing between owners and corporate executives and manufacturing engineers and quality managers. Sixty-nine percent of the job shop owners and corporate executives surveyed said they were not familiar with lean manufacturing, while only 35 percent of the manufacturing engineers and quality managers said they were unfamiliar with the concept.
Only 15 percent of the job shop owners and corporate executives had one or more lean manufacturing initiatives in place. The number was 66 percent among the manufacturing engineers and quality managers.
Companies with fewer than 50 employees are also less likely to be familiar with lean manufacturing and are less likely to have implemented lean systems. Thirty-five percent of them were unfamiliar with lean and only 9 percent had one or more systems in place.
On the other hand, none of the surveyed companies with more than 300 employees were unfamiliar with lean concepts, and 54 percent of them have one or more systems in place.
SME is hoping to bridge this lean manufacturing knowledge gap through a series of programs. Its EASTEC 2003 conference and exposition, to be held May 20-22 in West Springfield, Mass., will include a Lean Manufacturing Pavilion and Conference, which will be co-sponsored by the Greater Boston Manufacturing Partnership. Paid attendees to the conference will receive a free operational assessment after the show in their shop or plant. Attendees also will receive a free SME "Lean" video, discounts on SME lean manufacturing books and 2-for-1 offers for on-line lean learning courses.