The Lean injection molding production of factory
The factory moves from chaotic management to lean injection molding production
The status quo of injection molding companies
Many injection molding companies have encountered various problems in the process of lean production promotion. Of course, there are reasons of the current development stage of China’s manufacturing industry and the companies’ specific production environment. But the more fundamental reason that led to the failure of lean production promotion expected is that the companies did not understand and implement lean production from a systematic and pragmatic perspective.
Many large Chinese manufacturing companies have introduced lean production concepts and practices as early as many years ago.
- conduct lean production theory training
- select core production teams to visit and learn in mature companies
- promotethe basic tools and systems of lean production on the production site
- build a Lean Academy within the company
- hire domestic and foreign lean experts to serve as senior managers in the production department, etc.
Companies expect to achieve the improvement of production management capabilities in this way.
However, according to BCG’s experience and observations, many companies operating in the Chinese market (not only domestic companies, but also many foreign-funded companies) have so far failed to achieve the expected results in implementing lean production. Their lean production promotion process is full of obstacles, repeatedly. So that some corporate managers even begin to doubt whether lean production is suitable for China.
The common setbacks we have observed
- The understanding of lean elements and the application of tools are accurate, with quick short-term results, but not long-term sustainability.
- The action is visible, but the improvement effect cannot be measured. And the input-output ratio cannot be determined.
- The formation of a new large organization and team for the implementation of lean production, on the contrary, leads to a decrease in overall efficiency. Badly,the gain is not worth the loss.
- Lean for the sake of lean, mechanically set lean tools and methods, but failed to carry out targeted design and improvement.
- The production department cannot get the cooperation of other departments. And thatmicro-environment hinders the implementation of lean methods.
- Middle-level personnel are busy with daily affairs and perfunctory to lean production.
- Frontline workers fail to see the benefits from improvement and are accustomed to doing things according to their previous experience.
Lean production is an organizational ability
BCG believes that the essence of lean production is not rigid and universal ready-made tools, methods and routines. It’s actually a process of continuous innovation and continuous improvement of the enterprise’s production system. This process requires the participation of all levels and even everyone, so lean production is essentially an organizational ability. Only when the principles and methods of lean are internalized into organizational capabilities, companies can calmly deal with the endless problems and achieve self-improvement.
In order to better understand lean production, let’s first understand the following questions:
- Is our operational performance consistent with customer requirements?
- Is our factory continuously and effectively promoting the improvement of cost, quality and delivery?
- How to maintain and improve gross profit margin in the context of rising costs of raw materials and other factors?
- What can we do to improve product quality?
- How to ensure the production safety of the factory?
- How to improve inventory management of parts, work-in-progress and finished products?
- Have we effectively achieved cross-departmental synergies?
- How to give full play to the initiative of middle managers?
- How to reduce the turnover rate of front-line workers and improve morale?
The above-mentioned issues are all important issues. And the persons in charge of production are concerned about those issues daily. Companies need to build lean production management content and mechanisms around these issues. BCG’s production transformation theory points out that lean production includes three dimensions.
Lean production principles
By absorbing a lot of historical experience, lean production has formed some universally applicable basic principles, such as:
- Eliminating waste
- Zero defects
These principles can be divided into three categories:
- general principles
- operational principles
- sustainable principles
Although these principles have a certain universal significance, companies need to make targeted designs and adjustments in terms of their own development strategies and specific production environment on the interpretation, priority, and combination of the principles.
For example, production flexibility is very important for the automobile manufacturing industry. But in the mass-standardized electronics manufacturing industry, the importance of production flexibility will be much reduced. While the rigid dedicated production lines will help improve quality and efficiency.
For another example, employee authorization is very effective for companies with rich experience and stable teams. However, in companies with high employee turnover, the connotation of employee authorization needs to be adjusted significantly. For the latter type of enterprises, it may be a better way to have employees strictly abide by the operating instructions. Instead of assigning the important task of improving operations to the front-line personnel with little experience and lack of due diligence.
The production principle is the highest program for the production management of an enterprise.
Once determined, the production principles will have a significant impact on daily production management decisions. For instance, a company with a high inventory of work-in-progress determines its production principle to be “process-oriented”. Then, its production department should be focus on the optimization of the overall output of the factory. It’s rather than How high is the independent output of a certain production line in a workshop. Tekwell injection molding consulting professional provides consulting training for injection molding factories. And that requires the company to continue to identify and improve end-to-end bottleneck processes. What’s more, reduce the inventory of intermediate products as much as possible, and adjust the evaluation indicators of workshops and personnel.
The production principle also implies necessary trade-offs. Many companies have chosen to destroy products because of quality problems. Such an approach reflects that the company will not hesitate to sacrifice delivery and cost for the pursuit of quality in the quality-focused stage. Similarly, many companies sacrifice quality when pursuing delivery speed and cost reduction. If an enterprise blindly pursues delivery, quality, and cost, it will often result in high labor intensity and low salaries. And it will further lead to personnel problems.
How to implement the production principle?
To achieve a balanced development of safety, quality, cost, delivery, and personnel, companies do not need to be extreme in all aspects. This requires production leaders and business leaders to have the judgment and courage of professional managers and entrepreneurs. They must have the ability to determine the focus of production principles according to specific development stages and specific issues. Besides, they can clarify the direction of lean work, and avoid shifting between different goals indefinite.
The production principles have a significant impact. In the process of formulating production principles, enterprises need to conduct full discussion and communication. The production principles need to be agreed and strictly observed within the enterprise, which is essential for the efficient operation of the production department. When companies face conflicts on major production issues, they must refer to these principles to make decisions and trade-offs. So that they can greatly reduce the communication costs. Production principles can help companies consider production decisions from the perspective of end-to-end value creation in the value chain. Besides, it can provide a basis for the overall decision-making optimization of the company.
Eight Elements of Lean Management
Lean elements include eight common elements in lean production theory, including:
- visual management
- standard operations
- material handling
- equipment management
- standard organization
- quality management
- product technology
- safety, health and environmental protection
Lean elements roughly outline the main content of production management and common methods and tools in various aspects.
These are general methodological guidelines. In order to make these tools and methods work in a specific enterprise, it is necessary to carry out targeted design according to the production content and production environment of the enterprise. So that it can form the enterprise’s own management mechanism. Take the quality door tool in quality management as an example. The fundamental role of this tool is to find defects as early as possible. Also, it is to prevent the overflow of defects between different process stations. In workshop management, the quality gate will involve many specific issues, such as:
The management for the quality gate
- Who is responsible for setting the quality gate(production or quality)?
- Where is the quality gate set?
- What is the content of each quality gateinspection?
- How to deal with the problem after the quality gatechecks? Under what circumstances need to stop the line? Who has the right to stop the line?
- How to collect and feedback quality gate data?
- How to trace quality problems?
- How to solve the recurring quality problems, and who is responsible for solving them?
- What is the role of the quality gate in the closed loop of the overall quality management of the enterprise? How does the quality gate integrate with other tools?
If the company fails to straighten out the above-mentioned problems in the quality management. Or they cannot fully explain the quality management logically and guarantee strict implementation in actual operation. But simply say “we are using quality tools”, in fact, that means the quality door does not play its due role. What’s worse, quality problems continue to overflow between workstations and even workshops.
Therefore, lean elements need to be guaranteed by detailed processes and customized management mechanisms. Enterprises need to specify in each process the following problems:
- Who are involved in each step?
- What are the responsibilities of each person?
- What are the deliverables of each node of the process?
- What is the required time for each process link?
- What is the upgrade mechanism for decision-making?
- How does each person receive the assessment in the process?
- What are the requirements for the ability of the person?
Only after satisfying the following two points, the role of these elements can be fully reflected.
- The lean tools and methods are transformed into the internal system of the enterprise through processes and mechanisms.
- They are accepted and mastered by relevant personnel.
Lean elements have an effect similar to the barrel theory. It means that the shortcomings of any element will have a great negative impact on the whole. Enterprises must pay attention to the more prominent parts of these elements. Also, they should continue to improve and ultimately promote the continuous progress of production management. Management elements include soft elements such as corporate management culture, organizational responsibility design, performance evaluation indicators, and personnel management ability training.
The management culture needs to combine the company’s lean production principles and the specific management mechanism design in the lean elements. So that it can identify the desired behaviors of the company, and compare these behaviors with the various default behaviors existing in the current corporate culture. Then, further determine which behaviors need to be prohibited, encouraged, or strengthened. The change of specific behavior requires enterprise management to lead by example and deeply participate.
The management of the enterprise should also gradually realize the conversion to the expected behavior of the enterprise by promptly stimulating the daily subtle behaviors. This process is usually lengthy and requires a lot of patience. Many companies often choose to give up due to repetitions in this process. And that ultimately leads to the failure of management culture transformation.
Organization and responsibility design
Organization and responsibility design must start from the basic purpose of supporting front-line workers to complete production operations efficiently and with high quality. Therefore, we recommend:
(1) Organizational design
In the organizational design, adopt a bottom-up approach: First define the level organization and responsibilities of the workstation. Then the team and production line, and finally the workshop organization.
(2) Production organization design
In the design of production organization, enterprises need to handle the relationship between various support and auxiliary functions and core production functions. All functions are for the development of the enterprise, and its sense of service must be highlighted. It is forbidden to set up some non-value-added institutions for the purpose of supervising and monitoring certain responsibilities. Forming a bureaucracy of the supervision function is also not allowed. Because they will eventually lead to a lack of enthusiasm for the production function. While supporting auxiliary functions cannot produce actual value.
(3) Avoid excessive management
We must prevent the problems of excessive management and too many levels.
Performance indicator design
(1)Performance indicator design first needs to be combined with organization and responsibility design.
And the performance indicators are used to promote the full implementation of organization and responsibility design. In this process, it is necessary to avoid including indicators that far exceed the responsibilities of the assessment target into the assessment.
(2)The assessment indicators should combine results and behaviors.
It should refer to not only the results, but also the ways to achieve the results. Because there is a certain contingency in the result in the short term. Only the correct result achieved through the correct behavior can be reproduced.
(3) The number of assessment indicators should not be too many.
According to the experience of BCG, when the number of personal assessment indicators exceeds 10, the incentive effect on the assessment objects will be significantly reduced. Generally speaking, the number of evaluation indicators for middle-level personnel is best controlled below 7.
Enterprise's personnel management problems and solutions
The high turnover rate of front-line workers and the shortage of middle-level personnel are common problems faced by China’s manufacturing industry.
(1) Staff planning
In terms of front-line worker management, companies first need to deal with the cyclical changes in personnel demand caused by the low and peak seasons of production. Besides, they should respond to the elastic changes in employment demand through personnel planning and recruitment. So that it can achieve a good balance between meeting production needs and improving personnel utilization.
(2) Improve the stability of the team
In a market environment with high personnel mobility, it may not be realistic to blindly expect a reduction in personnel turnover. The key lies in stabilizing the core team. Cultivating and maintaining a core production team is very important for an enterprise. Such a team has played a key role in ensuring stable production quality. In terms of the management of middle-level personnel in the production team, the company first needs to handle the design and communication of the career development path of the personnel. Due to the shortage of middle-level personnel in the market, the promotion rate of personnel is much faster than that of the mature market. Therefore, managing the development expectations of middle-level personnel within the enterprise has become an important factor in improving the stability of middle-level personnel.
(3) Formulate team training methods
Enterprises need to establish a targeted training method based on the actual needs of middle-level personnel and the results of their evaluation. More importantly, companies need to incorporate the training and development of middle-level personnel into the assessment of their direct leaders. So that the training of superiors to subordinates can be institutionalized.
Enterprises need to internalize the production principles and lean elements in the first two dimensions through the design of management elements. So that managers at all levels have the motivation and ability to implement lean principles and lean elements. And ultimately solidify and continue lean improvement. So they can realize the transformation of production management in culture and behavior. This is the most important task that is most easily overlooked in the implementation of lean production.
This work is the key to organically combining production principles, lean elements, and enterprise management mechanisms and personnel capabilities. If this work is missing or not done in place, it will often lead to the failure of the company’s lean production promotion work.
The transformation and upgrading of China’s manufacturing industry has reached a very critical moment. Chinese enterprises need to use lean principles flexibly according to their own characteristics. Besides, it is necessary to promote the organic combination of lean elements and management mechanisms. Only by those means, can we find a practical way of production management transformation. We believe that Made in China will become synonymous with high quality in the future.