Lean Manufacturing In a Low-Volume High-Mix Environment

By Liberty Electronics on 08 February, 2021

Liberty Lean Read about how Liberty Electronics has implemented lean manufacturing process to save its customers lead time and cost while delivering high-quality product.

Implementing Lean Manufacturing in a low-volume, high-mix electronic manufacturing services (EMS) company is not a textbook exercise.  Frequent customer-driven schedule changes, limited production quantities and frequent setups require some creativity in implementing lean manufacturing. In Liberty Electronics’ experience, there is still waste that can be eliminated throughout the value stream.

In the macro view, organizing into cells and customer satisfaction teams, combined with a profit-sharing incentive plan based on objective performance data, provide a greater sense of ownership and accountability.  Implementing a rigorous 5-S program to keep things clean, neat and orderly, and moving to a more visual workplace with clear signage and metrics provide improvement in quality, delivery and labor productivity.  

In some cases, one-piece flow is possible along with point-of-use material and tool storage, and a two-bin system, with all of the attendant productivity and quality benefits.  In other cases, smaller batch sizes are the answer.  The ability to pull material kits and tooling, along with on-demand routers, take both cycle time and cost out of the process.  Real-time labor data tracking provides useful labor data to evaluate performance against bids, and helps drive labor efficiency improvement.  It also provides instant status visibility for use both internally and in providing timely status reports to customers.  This is a good example of the benefit of an in-house IT group that can make custom applications to support lean initiatives.

In a low volume, high mix environment, 3D printing has been invaluable in support of lean processes.  Creating custom tool holders that are easy to find, transport, and that are safe and easily accessible have helped considerably.  Well thought out and easy to use 3D printed fixturing eliminates waste, driving both productivity and quality improvements. 

Training and cross-training of employees have proven key, along with moving to daily, weekly and in some cases hourly takt times to help improve on-time deliveries and labor efficiencies. 

In-process validation of both products and tools is a key part of lean manufacturing at Liberty Electronics.  Having empowered employees that can stop the flow of product when the customer acceptance criteria is not met is critical.  And speaking of employees, having engaged and committed people has been, in our experience, indispensable in generating improvement ideas to eliminate waste.

Lean manufacturing in an EMS provider like Liberty Electronics takes on a unique shape, but it is no less effective in supporting world class manufacturing than in a high volume, low mix environment.  

If you would like to learn more about lean manufacturing at Liberty Electronics, contact … 

Topics: Operational Efficiency, Manufacturing, Design, Cost Control, Aerospace

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