As any executive knows, an organization’s financial performance can fluctuate from quarter to quarter. When business slows down and resources are scarce, it’s easy to fall into survival mode and put off long-term projects until times get better. However, with a little bit of planning and foresight, slow quarters actually provide a great opportunity to take on lean projects.
But why should you spend time and effort on this in particular? Because going lean and eliminating waste can drastically improve your production process—from materials to quality control—in the long run. As a result, you’ll boost customer satisfaction as well. In fact, learning how to turn an undesirable situation into a new opportunity will help your business become not just resilient, but antifragile!
"Some things benefit from shocks; they thrive and grow when exposed to volatility, randomness, disorder, and stressors.” — Antifragile
Let’s explore how to use a slowdown for lean manufacturing projects.
Why a Slow Quarter Is a Great Time for Lean Projects
When resources are tight, every decision needs to be weighed against its potential return on investment (ROI). It makes sense to prioritize projects that will help your organization become more efficient and productive over investments with less certain outcomes. And since there is typically less pressure on resources during slow quarters—including time, money, and people—it is easier to justify taking on longer-term initiatives like implementing lean practices.
What’s more, lean manufacturing is actually all about eliminating waste, which helps you make the most of your existing resources. There is also more time for careful planning and implementation during a slowdown, so you can avoid the feeling of being rushed. This makes it easier to identify bottlenecks or other issues that may impact progress or ROI in the future.
Other Opportunities for Starting Lean Projects
In addition to process improvement initiatives, there are many other opportunities for starting lean projects during slow quarters. These include new product development, equipment upgrades, employee training programs, and customer service improvements. By taking advantage of these opportunities during slower periods of business activity, you can increase your chances of success by mitigating risk due to limited resources or changes in customer demand or preferences.
Implementing and Maintaining Lean Practices
Part of learning how to use a slowdown for lean manufacturing projects is learning how to maintain the new practices in your production process. Once you have identified lean opportunities within your organization, it is important that you take steps to ensure their successful implementation and maintenance over time. This includes setting goals and measurable objectives as well as involving key stakeholders throughout the process.
Additionally, it is essential that you implement changes gradually while measuring progress along the way so that any unexpected issues can be addressed quickly without compromising ROI or project timelines. Finally, it is important that your organization remain open to continuous improvement by adapting processes as needed based on data analysis or feedback from customers or employees.
Recommendations for Lean Projects
Not sure where to start? Take a look at Amper’s recommendations for great ways to start incorporating lean principles into your facility.
Perform a Time Study
Wish you could have eyes on everything at the same time? Wonder if your workflows are actually optimal for your operations? Though there are no magic glasses, there is the possibility of conducting a time study.
A time study reveals a detailed view of how long it takes a worker to finish tasks. This process helps you learn more about the operational efficiency of your production lines using clear time standards. Additionally, it gives your business baseline metrics and data points. For a full list of benefits, steps, and best practices, read our Time Study 101 blog.
Conduct a SMED Event
Take your time study a step further and conduct a SMED (Single Minute Exchange of Die) event! A SMED event is a proven method of boosting productivity. In fact, you can see a 30-50% reduction in setup and changeover times! Why does this matter? Because it’s no secret that manufacturers aim for the trifecta of manufacturing success: produce more, spend less, and improve customer satisfaction.
So…. How do you get there? The first step is adopting a lean manufacturing process. How do you get there? Conduct a SMED event to identify, analyze, and extract steps. Wondering why it's worth going through this ordeal? Well, time is money! The more you wait to optimize your manufacturing operations, the more opportunities will leave you behind. (Plus, NASCAR loves SMED, if you needed a better reason.) For a complete guide on how to do this at your factory check out How to Conduct a SMED Event.
Implement a 5S System
The lean methodology relies on what is commonly referred to as a 5S system to succeed. 5S refers to five words—all starting with S—that serve as the foundation of the lean philosophy “a place for everything and everything in a place.” These five words are sort, straighten, shine, standardize, and sustain. With the 5S methodology in your workplace, you can reduce waste while also fostering a clean culture and safer working conditions.
To build out a 5S system at your factory, don’t miss our guide: Understanding the 5S Lean Manufacturing Principles. You can also see this principle in action below!
Transforming Slowdowns into Opportunities
Slow quarters can often feel like a setback, but they present a great opportunity for organizations looking to improve their efficiency through lean projects and initiatives like process improvement efforts, new product development plans, equipment upgrades, and employee training programs. With careful planning and foresight—and by setting objectives while involving key stakeholders—organizations can leverage these slower periods effectively while increasing their chances of success over time through continuous improvement efforts.
The bottom line? Don’t let your next slow quarter bring your business’s progress to a halt—use it as an opportunity for continuous improvement instead!
Make Your Factory Lean With Amper
When it comes to lean manufacturing processes, there are many paths you can take to implement the principles and create a more successful lean environment for you and your team members. When you optimize a workflow to follow lean principles, you know that you are getting the best possible process improvement.
Becoming lean doesn’t have to be an overly complicated ordeal that requires massive overhauls of your manufacturing system. With the right tools, businesses can easily adopt lean practices. Amper is an IoT production management solution that gives you real-time insights into your operations. With this data, you’ll better understand your supply chain, reduce bottlenecks, and improve production. To learn more, book a demo today and see how Amper can help you improve your lean manufacturing processes and continuous improvement initiatives.