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Stiff competition in today’s industries has kept industrial operators struggling to come up with innovations that can help them survive. Currently, industries are looking for ways not only to improve the quality of their services but to also improve their efficiency. One of the techniques that have been found to help industries achieve this objective is the lean practice. It has become too popular among industrial operators with industries such as the automobiles using it to improve their production quality and volume. Apart from automobile industry, the practice is gradually being adopted by machine tool industry. Despite the concepts of lean production being invented from mass productions, limited studies have been established that tries to come up with ways in which the same may facilitate in improving efficiency of low production industries such as machine tools industries. This paper aims at giving a brief survey of lean implementation in machine tool industry. This is to get an insight of how the industry is conscious of the concept as well as identify some of the lean needs required by this industry.
Lean management entails a multifaceted management practice that comprises of the state of the art systems, suppliers management and work groups. The main desire for adaptation of lean practice in machine tool industry is its ability to help industries come up with their products based on customers’ demand. The features and impacts brought about by lean implementation in industries have been exhibited by motor vehicle industry. For instance, lean implementation in Toyota production System facilitates in gradual improvement of organizational performance by doing away with processes that are found not to add any value to the industry as well as waste eradication (Eswaramoorthi, Kathiresan, Prasad & Mohanram). In this industry, waste is considered as any operation or process that does not help the organization meet consumer needs.
Numerous industries have benefited from lean implementation. These include electronics manufacturing industries and the aerospace. Through the practice, these companies have been able to produce their products based on consumer needs, streamline their operations and also cut down on operation cost. This has been achieved through identification of processes that have not been adding value to the company thus removing them from the operations schedule.
In bid to eliminate wastes in automotive industries; numerous procedures are used. Some of them include rapid changeovers, communicating through demonstrations and restructuring the workplaces. Furthermore, the companies ensure that they have relocated all the resources close to where they are used, ensure that they have come up with measures to avoid cases of delay in production process and streamlined operations. Their success has led to other industries copying their mode of operations. This is without these industries knowing that they are shifting to lean implementation. A feasibility study conducted in most of the companies in machine tool industry revealed that most of the companies were implementing lean operations without the management being aware (Eswaramoorthi, Kathiresan, Prasad & Mohanram).
Companies in Indian machine tool industry have not been able to incorporate the lean concepts in their operations. The main reason has been employee resistant to changes brought about by this move. Employees fear that lean concepts would lead to them being overloaded with responsibilities. Others fear that the idea would lead to some of the operations being rendered useless to the industry thus leaving staffs running these operations jobless. As a result, employees from these companies use all the available means to shoot down any attempt to introduce the practice into the industry. This calls for the companies in machine tool industry to educate their employees on the benefits that the industry is likely to reap from the practice as well as the drawbacks of their current system of operations. Employees need to understand that denying the company the opportunity to reap from this practice would not only affect the company but would also affect their future in the organization. This would make them appreciate the idea thus be ready to embrace it.
The idea of lean implementation is a new concept in India. Most organizations are not aware of it thus their employees have no experience on how to implement it. This calls for industrial training to help companies accurately identify the required tools and how they are supposed to implement them to achieve organizational goals (Eswaramoorthi, Kathiresan, Prasad & Mohanram). For machine tool industry to successfully use lean tools, it has to perceive it as a direction and not take it as set target that an organization seeks to attain after certain duration. The process of lean implementation may appear to be expensive to most organizations. It is therefore the duty of industries to evaluate and determine the range of benefits they are likely to get from lean implementation.
To come up with clear picture of how lean practice is being incorporated in machine tool industry in India, a survey was conducted on metal cutting industry where workers within this industry were required to respond to administered questionnaires. The questionnaires were sent to a hundred companies in the industry. The questionnaires covered all levels of operations within the industry with industrial managers having their range of questions to answer as well as the end users of the machine tool. Some of the information that was to be obtained through the questionnaires included the nature of lean implementation in the industry, the factors that led to the industry implementing lean practice and the regularity of implementing the various lean tools within the industry. The questionnaires also tackled on some of the problems encountered when implementing the different lean tools in the industry.
Results and discussion
Out of the studied industries, it was identified that most of the industries have not fully adopted the lean practice. Instead, the practice was only being implemented on some of the processes within the industry. To obtain accurate information from the collected data, Friedman’s test was calculated. The significance level was set at 0.05. From the feedback received from operators of the machine tools as well as suppliers, it was identified that 31.6% of the industries are gradually incorporating lean tool into their operations. However, the tool is not being implemented in the entire organization. Rather, it is being implemented in selected areas. 15.8% of the correspondents indicated that their industries were in the process of laying down an infrastructure that will facilitate in lean implementation. 7.9% of the companies asserted that they would only embrace the practice after they have adequately trained their employees. This would take them one year duration. The rest of the companies were found to be reluctant to adopt this technology.
Eswaramoorthi, M., Kathiresan, G. R., Prasad, P. S. S. & Mohanram, P. V. “A survey on lean practices in Indian machine tool industries.” The International Journal of Advanced Manufacturing Technology 10.1007 (2010): 1-5.