Buffered vs. lean
Aggressive pricing by competitors, growing demands from customers, ever-rising quality standards and burgeoning environmental regulations are a continuous source of pressure for small and medium-sized companies. Companies need more than just a collection of disparate activities if they are to influence all of these areas – they need a comprehensive concept.
Lean production is a holistic approach to boosting a company’s competitiveness. It takes into account the fact that everything is constantly changing, reduces warehousing and supply stores, lowers personnel outlay, minimises space requirements and significantly cuts errors in production. It creates a climate that is conducive to ongoing changes designed to accommodate growing challenges.
Buffered vs. lean production
At its heart, lean production is about giving responsibility to the people who are actually doing the work. When it comes to production systems, that means that every production cell is responsible for the quality of the parts it is manufacturing.
Comparison by Franz J. Brunner (2011) from his book Japanische Erfolgsstrategien (Japanese Success Strategies):
- The responsibility for quality lies with the personnel who conduct inspections, complete products or remedy faults – not with the personnel undertaking the actual production work
- The high degree of anonymity at the workplace results in elevated levels of absence and illness
- Large material stocks cover stoppages, errors and quality issues
- When production at any one stage of a process is conditional on materials being present, other stages are prone to stock outages and overproduction.
- A sufficient number of repair areas and personnel are available and take away some of the pressure to do everything correctly
Safety nets such as repair areas, intermediate stores, replacement personnel and quality inspectors create a sense of safety and are reassuring – but are very expensive. This waste needs to be cut out.
- Each individual employee is responsible for the quality, maintenance and functionality of machinery. The people who are on the ground are best placed to continuously offer suggestions as to how improvements could be made.
- The company promotes team-building and small groups. Every employee is an important part of the operation as a whole.
- Just-in-time manufacturing requires program-controlled production that optimises supply to each production cell.
- Downstream stations are customers and expect to receive fault-free goods.
- Few repair areas are required, less remedial work takes place, production personnel solve their own problems
This system relies on the drive and the ability of each and every employee. It is therefore crucial for the management team to create a working environment that supports a spirit of shared responsibility.