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Lean manufacturing a must for competing globally

In the past, lean manufacturing training could be expensive and a major commitment of resources. But now that training is available through the Lean Enterprise Center at Southern Miss, this valuable tool is becoming increasingly popular.
Jim Stringer, director of membership and educational services at the Mississippi Manufacturers Association, said in the past a lot of companies were scared to get into lean manufacturing.

“But if they are going to stay competitive, that is what they have to do because we are in a global economy, and lean makes us more competitive,” Stringer said.

“There are a number of companies interested who weren’t in the past. One reason some companies stayed away from lean is that it is expensive and extensive training. In the past, we didn’t have folks in Mississippi who could do the training. But now we do. You don’t have to pay travel and expenses for a trainer to come in, and you are getting someone who thinks like we do.”

According to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), lean production is aimed at the elimination of waste in every area of production including customer relations, product design, supplier networks and factory management. Its goal is to incorporate less human effort, less inventory, less time to develop products and less space to become highly responsive to customer demand while producing top quality products in the most efficient and economical manner possible.

Steve Miller, director of the Lean Enterprise Center, said manufacturers who think they can’t afford lean training are fooling themselves.

“Just like you pay the light bill every month, you have to invest in this training just so you can stay alive,” Miller said. “You can not afford to ignore these concepts. It is an investment. Some companies wait until they are almost ready to shut the doors before they call. That isn’t the time to start one of these training programs. The time to invest is when you are doing well. They are just prolonging agony by putting it off. At some point manufacturers will have to adopt these manufacturing processes in order to compete on a global level.”

Federal grant funds help subsidize the cost of the training, so manufacturers don’t have to pay the full cost for the training that is a systematic approach to identify and eliminate waste in manufacturing. Some people think that means reducing actual physical waste, but it also includes all non-value added activities. Miller said the system involves continuous improvement and flowing the product at the pull of the customer instead of using mass production type philosophies.

It took a while for the lean manufacturing concepts that were developed in the automobile factories to make it down South.

“We knew the manufacturers in Mississippi needed it, but all this stuff started up north in Michigan because it was driven by automotive industries,” Miller said. “It took a while for people to realize it would work for any industry.”

The Lean Training Center serves the entire state, with the largest amount of activity in the furniture cluster in the Tupelo area. The central part of the state also has demand for the training now primarily from the automotive cluster surrounding the Nissan plant in Canton. On the Gulf Coast, the ship building clusters are the biggest customers for lean.

“We have done a lot of lean training in Northrop Grumman in Pascagoula and New Orleans,” Miller said. “But the bulk of our work is in the north part of Mississippi. Tupelo is aggressively growing its industry base. We get calls all the time to do lean manufacturing up there.”

Demand in the central part of Mississippi is likely to continue to grow. It is expected that more automotive suppliers will locate to the area because base manufacturers like Nissan prefer suppliers within a two-hour drive of their factory.

“We are hoping lean will also grow on the Gulf Coast, which is where I am from,” Miller said. “Some new manufacturers have come in including Trinity Shipbuilding in Gulfport, which does commercial shipbuilding — not just Department of Defense work. I’m hoping to see a burst in growth in these types of concepts on the Coast. It will take a while for industry to get back up and running after Katrina. There was major damage and restructuring of multi-million-dollar facilities. But we are looking for major growth once everyone gets their infrastructure rebuilt.”

Later this year, the Lean Enterprise Center and Pearl River Community College Advanced Technology Center will begin offering another type of process improvement training called Six Sigma. Six Sigma, first implemented by Motorola and later successfully adopted by top companies including GE, Honeywell, Johnson and Johnson and DuPont, is a customer-focused business improvement process that employs data-based tools to drive quality and customer satisfaction.

Miller said Six Sigma involves reduction of defects (anything that causes customer dissatisfaction) to levels near zero, and results in measurable improvements in quality, productivity and customer satisfaction.

“These proven processes can be successfully applied not only to production and manufacturing processes, but also to the entire range of business processes including new product development, customer order fulfillment processes and environmental, health and safety practices,” he said. “Many companies combine the practices of lean, which focus on elimination of waste in all processes, with Six Sigma reduction of defects for even greater business impact.”

Course offerings include the following:

• Executive Six Sigma Overview. This two-day course is designed for management teams to gain an understanding of benefits and challenges of Six Sigma implementation, and to determine how to best implement Lean Six Sigma at their own organizations. The course includes an overview of Lean Six Sigma processes, terminology and methods, and presents case studies of successful implementation and business results from Six Sigma. Additionally, road blocks to implementation are reviewed, with training on how to avoid these pitfalls. Team exercises are included to determine how Six Sigma can be best employed at your own organization.

• Introduction to Lean Six Sigma Tools. This one-week course is designed for employees at all levels who will be involved in Six Sigma projects and implementation. The course includes introduction to Lean Six Sigma processes, terminology and methods, and provides the foundation for Six Sigma implementation. The Six Sigma process, Define, Measure, Analyze, Improve and Control (DMAIC), is explained. Students will be provided training in basic statistics needed to implement Six Sigma tools, and will complete team tools in Define and Measure stages.

• Black Belt Training. This 17-day training is designed to develop proficiency in six sigma processes and quality management tools. It provides comprehensive training for employees who will be responsible for delivering Six Sigma projects and results at their businesses. Upon completion of the training and execution of one six sigma project with demonstrated business results, students will have achieved Black Belt proficiency. Six Sigma Black Belts are expected to have the ability to independently design and lead six sigma projects.

Black Belt training includes Six Sigma methodology, Lean Manufacturing and Quality Management Tools. Students will complete a project using the DMAIC process, utilizing tools such as GR&R, FMEA and SPC. Training includes basic statistics, design of experiments (DOE) and statistical process control. Students will be provided preparation for the American Society of Quality Black Belt certification test (optional).

• Green Belt Training. This 15-day course is designed for employees who will participate in Six Sigma projects and need to understand the methodology, but who will not be required to lead projects individually.

Design for Six Sigma is a week course offered for students who have already completed Green Belt or Black Belt training. It is designed for employees involved in product or process development roles, where design to meet customer expectations is critical. Students will learn the DFSS process and tools and review case studies of successful business implementation. The training will focus on statistical design of experiments techniques.

• Master Black Belt Training, Train the Trainer, is a two-week training offered to students who have completed Black Belt training. It is designed for employees who will implement Six Sigma training at their own businesses.

The courses will be taught by Dr. Sarah Morgan, assistant professor of polymer science in the School of Polymers and High Performance Materials at Southern Miss and Dr. Les Goff, president and CEO of Noetic Technologies Inc., a University of Southern Mississippi Research Foundation Company.

For more information, contact Miller at 601-329-1729, or send an e-mail to steven.g.miller@usm.edu.

Contact MBJ contributing writer Becky Gillette at bgillette@bellsouth.net.


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