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Cutting costs can save state jobs

Lean manufacturing cuts fat out of operations

Lean manufacturing is becoming more and more popular among Mississippi manufacturers, and for good reason.

Although about 21% to 22% of Mississippi jobs are in the manufacturing industry, which is above the national average of about 15%, the state is losing jobs just like every other state in the nation. In fact, there are about 9% fewer manufacturing jobs in Mississippi today than there were in 1994 — down to about 242,000 from 260,000, according to the Mississippi Manufacturers Association (MMA).

This fact has led the manufacturing and service industries in Mississippi to look at ways at becoming more competitive, not only in the national, but also in the global marketplace.

Lean manufacturing is a way of manufacturing goods at the least possible cost — a systematic approach to identifying and eliminating waste in the manufacturing processes through continuous improvement. It is accomplished by flowing the product at the pull of the customer in pursuit of perfection.

The lean approach itself is somewhat new to Mississippi. The Mississippi Manufacturing Extension Partnership (MMEP) only last year began working through the national program of the National Manufacturing Extension Partnership (NMEP) to target tools that might help companies see a better bottom line. NMEP only recently began to identify how to accomplish a lean approach to manufacturing.

By studying the Toyota Production System, the NMEP was able to identify the processes by which companies might be able to produce a higher quality product at a lower cost to the manufacturer.

Already, quite a few Mississippi manufacturers are using the lean manufacturing approach; in fact they have become national models in doing so.

Viking Range, located in the Delta, is one company already using the lean approach to manufacturing. Another Mississippi company that has begun to implement the lean approach is Hol-Mac, which has four plants in Mississippi.

Charles Holder, CEO of the Hol-Mac Corporation in Bay Springs, is pleased with the results he has seen due to his partial implementation of lean manufacturing.

“We’re not necessarily doing it (implementing the lean approach) to try to lower costs, we’re doing it to be competitive to keep jobs from moving offshore,” he said. “There’s no question about it — all businesses have some fat that, if they studied (lean manufacturing) more in detail, they would become more efficient in the process.”

Holder chaired the commission on workforce excellence for Gov. Ray Mabus in 1990, and later he and others from around the state formed a millennium group to look at ways for Mississippi industry to stay in the state. He is presently on the state workforce council, helping to move workforce training in Mississippi to where it needs to be in order to better the economy.

Jerry McBride, president of MMA, calls lean manufacturing a “smart” way to operate.

“Certainly it’s going to lower cost,” he said. “It’s going to make for more effective production, and if you’re paying higher wages, you’re going to be as efficient as you can possibly be. Basically you’re operating as ‘smart’ as you can, and that’s what’s going to be required.”

McBride’s philosophy is if basic industries leave Mississippi, so will other enterprise.

“All other enterprise depends upon those who make it, grow it or dig it,” he said.

Now that the lean approach has become not only a way of manufacturing but a day-to-day process for many businesses, ways of implementing lean manufacturing are being taken throughout the state so that manufacturing companies can become more efficient, and ultimately more competitive in today’s marketplace.

“If we can help them (Mississippi companies) eliminate waste, there are more opportunities for profits in the long run,” said Ed Pinero, director of operations at the MMEP.

The MMEP is currently working with the State Board of Community and Junior Colleges, the University of Southern Mississippi and the Mississippi Department of Economic and Community Development on a statewide lean manufacturing awareness campaign to educate manufacturers on the benefits and the implementation processes of lean manufacturing.

There are many benefits of lean manufacturing, including lead time reduction — the time from when customers order something to the time they receive it — by as much as 95%; and productivity increases by as much as 50%. Other areas in manufacturing that typically benefit from the lean approach include work-in-process (WIP) inventories, which can be reduced by up to 85%; quality improvement, by as much as 90%; and floor space utilization, which can be increased by up to 75%.

Depending upon how much lean implementation is used by a manufacturer, the resulting benefits may be more or less.

Some tools the MMEP uses to help companies implement lean manufacturing include cellular manufacturing, the quick changeover of machinery, batch size reduction and total productive maintenance. The Kanban system is another tool used by MMEP to help companies produce better products at a lower cost. It is a way to signal that the customer needs something from the supplier and uses simple pull systems through the process. This helps companies prevent a buildup of surplus inventory.

Other tools used by the MMEP to help companies implement the lean approach include: the visual management system; value stream mapping, a tool used to identify non value-added activities in a manufacturing system; just in time (JIT) inventory, a customer-supplier relationship idea; and one piece flow.

For a fee, the MMEP will teach courses they have developed in collaboration with the Department of Commerce’s National Institute of Standards and Technology Manufacturing and Extension Partnership Program to companies and employees which will help them accomplish a lean approach to manufacturing.

“It’ll (lean manufacturing) help Mississippi companies remain competitive in the marketplace and in the worldwide scheme of things,” said Scott Alsobrooks, an industrial engineer with MMEP specializing in manufacturing systems. “It’s going to help Mississippi be globally competitive. We know they (lean manufacturing tools) reduce cost and time and if they (Mississippi companies) don’t implement them, their competitors in other states and other countries will.”

For information about lean manufacturing courses, call or fax Ed Pinero at the MMEP at (601) 799-2980, or write to Mississippi Manufacturing Extension Partnership, 100 Hwy. 11 North, Suite B, Picayune, MS 39466.

For information on seminars offered by the MMA on cell manufacturing, call Jim Stringer, director of educational and membership services, at (601) 948-1222.

For more information about lean manufacturing, go to the Lean Enterprise Institute’s Web site at www.lean.org.

Contact MBJ staff writer Elizabeth Kirkland at ekirkland@msbusiness.com or (601) 364-1042.

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