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The Challenges

Discuss about the Lean Manufacturing Techniques.

Al-Efan printing press began its operations in the year 1996, and served many customers in the city of Riyadh. Among hundreds of printers in Saudi Arabia, Al-Efan has a reputation for being one of the leading commercial printing presses of the city (Gapp, Fisher, & Kobayashi, 2008). It has a pre-press section and post press section to take care of the unique needs of the customers and aspires to be a one-stop solution provider to the customers for concept development, design of graphics, high quality printing on various kinds of papers, post press activities such as binding, folding, sorting, personalization, etc. Al-Efan always benchmarks its services to international standards, but somehow could not achieve its target.

Though the customers patronized the Al-Efan printing press, the company had various manufacturing defects and delays. The problems nagged the founder and chairman, Al-Abbassi, of the Al-Efan. The press began operations in the year 1996, when the total number of employees that they had was just 12, and now after more than a decade, they have about 75 employees. Even with additions in the workforce, Al-Abassi noticed exorbitantly high wastage of consumables, production defects and delivery errors (Gapp, Fisher, & Kobayashi, 2008). A sizable amount of paper is discarded as waste after printing, business cards, flyers, brochures, manuals, etc. the number of incidents of the production flaws such as ink spillage, uneven colors, etc. have crept into the production system. In the recent time, in one of the incidence, a wrong consignment has been delivered to the customer, this fault of the company has led them to a huge financial loss as well as a vast decrease in their reputation (Rothenberg & Cost, 2004). Specifically, the flexographic label printing division had frequent problems with die changeovers. The works observed that the change of dies took about a minimum of four hours and may extend up to seven hours depending on the complexity of the work or the mess up in the plate loading process. A downtime of five hours is unaffordable to the press due to decrease in the productivity, increase in the cost and loss of reputation among the customers (Uribe, 2008).

Because of the above reasons, the company’s quality of production as well as their name in the market has been affected a lot. The poor quality of the print production also added cost to the company financially and caused loss of business. Most of their clients came up with a quality issue in the images, banners, flyers etc. that they received from Al-Efan printing press. The printing problems included blurred images, bleeding colors, and fading. Hence, in order to keep themselves going in the market, the management of Al-Efan printing press decided to rectify the problems with including technological solutions along with process improvements (Gehman, 2003).

The Solution

Al-Abbassi did some research and pondered on the solutions to improve production processes (especially the die/plate changing process) and reduce wastages in a holistic manner. Many colleagues and industry representatives suggested implementing lean manufacturing methods to reduce wastage of resources and time (Rothenberg & Cost, 2004). During discussions, it was found that loss of productivity is manifested in many ways.  For example, underutilized production capacity of printing machine and overproduction of print materials are forms of waste. The founder was not aware that an unused printing machine can be considered as waste if it does not add any value to the customer (Womack & Jones, 2003). The founder was impressed by the earlier case studies of the Lean Techniques and decided to implement the system.

The Lean production system adopts a holistic approach rather than solving individual issues. Continuous improvement and respect for employees are the two major principles of Lean management. The system can be implemented in any organization irrespective of the size of the enterprise, in any type of company (even in financial organizations such as HRD Fund are eligible) and in any cultural environment (Cooper, Keif & Macro Jr, 2007).  The primary goal of this approach is to eliminate waste and thereby increase productivity. In Lean, waste is not only about the physical residue in production, it also covers equipment, resources, and actions that are of no value to the customer.  The approaches of Lean consider people as one of the main ingredients in improving the system. The people must be encouraged, empowered and aided to think creatively and implement the plans cooperatively. The usual punch line of Lean to the employees is ‘do more with less’. The principles of Lean are simple to learn and apply, and do not require expensive training and consultations (Sayer & Williams, 2012).  

Some of the major Lean management tools are 5S, Total Production Maintenance (TPM), Process Mapping, Kaizen, Just in Time Production, “Five Whys”, etc. (Business Knowledge Source, 2010). For solving the waste and productivity issues of the Al-Efan printing press, the following steps are recommended (Cooper, Keif & Macro Jr, 2007).

At the flexographic printing section the die changing process created bottle neck for the production. In many manufacturing facilities, machine setups create wastes. A typical setup is the preparing a printing equipment or process for starting a printing cycle. And, a setup time is considered as the sum of the time elapsed between the last work and the beginning of the next work due to the preparation for the equipment set up or process (Albert, 2004).  In the printing industry, the Lean practice has contributed a term called SMED (single minute exchange of die), a technique to reduce setup time and make the machine ready for work (Chen & Meng, 2010)

A brief about Lean

With combination of the use of ergonomic tools and techniques of 5S (sorting, setting in order, shining, standardizing, sustaining), the SMED may be designed. The SMED will help to reduce the set up time and increase productivity.  In many organizations with the use of SMED, the set up time was reduced from hours to few minutes (Chen & Meng, 2010). Faster setup time not only reduces downtime but also increases productivity; and when this is applied throughout the organization where multiple printing presses are installed, the gain will be tremendous (Cooper, Keif & Macro Jr, 2007).

There are several methods that can be implemented to overcome the quality issue currently faced by the company. For improving the quality of the production such as blurring of the graphics, fading of colors, etc. a TQM (Total Quality Management) may be implemented. The tool of ““Five Whys”” is an apt choice to begin the TQM, which promotes a strong prominence of process measurement and control as a medium for uninterrupted improvements (Arumugam & Goyal, 2008). Five-Why Analysis helps the TQM team to explore the causes of a problem by making them ask five why questions repeatedly which relates to the problem.

The “Five Whys” technique is helpful to sustain the exploration till the original cause of the problem is identified (Bonacorsi, 2007). A team identified for solving the production issue be involved to carry out the 5 Whys analysis. The questions may include the following.

Why the printed document does is smudgy?

Why the three colors are not mixed and superimposed appropriately?

Why the printing plates are not mounted on the spindle or rollers?

Why the tracing notches are not accurately placed on the plates?

Why the tracing notches are having flaws? etc. (Cooper, Keif & Macro Jr, 2007)

The answers to these questions will help in understanding of the problem accurately and trigger solutions to the people involved in the production process. Based on the solutions generated by the production team or Lean team, the improvement action must be carried out until the desired results are achieved. The total improvement process may be documented as a guide to other teams and to internalize the learning (Gapp, Fisher, & Kobayashi, 2008). Hence, this can be a much effective process to enhance the services of the company and will help them gain their position back in the market.

Applying lean manufacturing principles can help the printing press to reduce wastage, inefficiencies and costs. There has been a lot of wastages after every printing consignment. Hence, lean manufacturing principles will help in controlling them to a huge extent. In fact, it is one of the most effective ways to reduce wastages in the printing industry and has been used by many printing companies throughout the world. In order to avoid the production bottlenecks, the old printers may be replaced with technologically advanced machines and simultaneously, the lean principles have to be practiced (Gapp, Fisher, & Kobayashi, 2008). There are bright chances that this hybrid approach shall reduce the cycle times, improve production flow that is smooth and continuous, increase capacity utilization, reduce costs and   improve profits (Oakland & Tanner, 2007). The results of Lean implementation has demonstrated enormous potential for printing organization to reduce set up time (waste), increase time available for value-addition, and thereby increase confidence of the  employees.

The recommendation for the LEAN implementation

Apart from improving efficiency of the manufacturing system, the business as such may experience a surge. In many organizations where Lean is implemented, the organizational culture of the company has dramatically changed. After the implementation of the Lean, managers from different department are likely to communicate often and solve the issues by working together (Shah & Ward, 2003). Managers and employees may develop a culture of developing clear schedules and goals in manufacturing. This will help the employees understand the company’s goals clearly and will also help them in delivery a quality service to their clients. The practice of ““Five Whys”” will deepen the understanding of the organizational issues among the employees.

Conclusion

One prominent tool the Lean program focuses is 5S implementation in the printing company. The 5S tool is critical for establishing a diagrammatic workplace. The 5S components i.e. sort, set in order, shine, standardize, and sustain has applications in every aspect of the organization and gives a confidence to the managers that any issue can be solved (Gapp, Fisher, & Kobayashi, 2008). In short, sort helps to align resources and tools; the set in order element brings logical order to the daily operations. The shine principles reminds the employees to follow safety and cleanliness, and the standardization step prompts the people to search for the best practices and preserve it as the cornerstones of performance (McManus, 2008).  Finally, the best practices are perpetuated through the regular audits, trainings and self-discipline.

References

Albert, M. (2004). Setup reduction: At the heart of lean manufacturing. Modern Machine Shop, 76(11), 66-66.

Arumugam and Goyal. (2008) “Newspaper Aims to Improve Printing: A TQM Case Study.” Six Sigma: Quality Resources for Achieving Six Sigma Results, available at https://www.isixsigma.com/tools-templates/capability-indices-process-capability/capability-and-performance/, Accessed on 11th December 2016.

Bonacorsi, Steven. (2007). 5 Whys Analysis, Ezinearticles, October 7, 2007. Available at

https://ezinearticles.com/?5-Whys-Analysis&id=772552, Accessed on 11th December 2016.

Business Knowledge Source (2010). “Lean Manufacturing Techniques.” Available at   https://www.businessknowledgesource.com/manufacturing/, Accessed on 11th December 2016.

Chen, L., & Meng, B. (2010). The application of setup reduction in lean production. Asian Social Science, 6(7), 108-113.

Gapp, R., Fisher, R., & Kobayashi, K. (2008). Implementing 5S within a Japanese Context: An Integrated Management System, Management Decision. 46(4): 565-579.

Gehman C. (2003). Print production workflow: A practical guide. Paramus, NJ: NAPL

McManus, Kevin (2008). “Top 10 Tips for 5S Success”. Great Systems, March 15, 2008.

Oakland, J. S., & Tanner, S. (2007). Successful Change Management. Total Quality Management & Business Excellence, 18(1/2), 1-19. doi:10.1080/14783360601042890

Rothenberg, S., & Cost, F. (2004). Lean manufacturing in small- and medium-sized printers (PICRM-2004-04). Rochester, NY: Printing Industry Center at RIT.

Sayer, N., & Williams, B. (2012) Lean for Dummies. Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sones, Inc.

Shah R, and Ward P T (2003). Lean manufacturing: Context, Practice Bundles, and Performance. Journal of Operations Management. 21: 129–149.

Uribe, J. (2008). Print productivity: a systems dynamics approach (PICRM-2008-05). Rochester, NY: Printing Industry Center at RIT.

Womack, J., & Jones, D. (2003). Lean thinking: Banish waste and create wealth in your corporation. New York: Free Press.

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