The global manufacturing sector has undergone a notable transformation over the past years as evidenced by the growth in different manufacturing industries. The growth has been spurred by the profitability potential of the sector. Different companies have been established in the services and the industrial manufacturing sectors in the pursuit to exploit the sectors’ profitability. Uniq Limited is a medium sized company that has been established in the manufacturing sector.
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The firm was established in 1998 and it specializes in the manufacture of fast moving apparels and footwear products. A workforce of 120 employees facilitates the company’s operations. Uniq Limited has experienced a positive performance in its profitability since its inception.
Mahaevan (2010, p. 5) defines operations management as ‘a systematic approach to addressing issues in the transformation process that converts inputs into useful, revenue-generating outputs’. Operations management further underscores the importance of understanding and addressing problems and issues that arise in the manufacturing process. Thus, it calls for the adoption of effective solutions to operational issues faced.
Mahaevan (2010) further affirms that the core aim of operations management is to minimize the cost and maximize revenue through effective planning and operations control. Despite the positive profitability trend, Uniq Limited is not free from challenges. One of the major challenges that the company faces arises from the increase in the intensity of competition.
The high rate of globalization coupled with the emergence of e-commerce has led to a remarkable increment in consumer power. Currently, consumers are demanding value for their money, which means that they are demanding more for less. One of the techniques that Uniq Limited has identified in its quest to achieve competitiveness entails implementation of a lean system. This paper entails a critical discussion on the implementation and strategic advantages associated with the integration of lean systems at Uniq Limited.
Operations function at Uniq Limited
Uniq Limited is focused on optimizing the level of customer satisfaction by offering customers high-quality apparel and footwear products. Thus, the company considers the operations function as one of the central operations management functions.
To achieve maximize on the level of customer satisfaction, the company has integrated a comprehensive set of inputs and transformation process. Uniq Limited considers a set of inputs to meet the customers’ product needs. The inputs include raw materials, labor, time, money, capital equipment, and information. The transformation process enables the company to add value to the inputs. The company outsources the raw materials from low-cost countries to minimize the cost of the final product.
Implementation and strategic issues of lean systems
The integration of the lean system in the operations function will improve the company’s capacity to satisfy customers and to maximize profitability. The lean concept arises from the need to reduce the amount of duration that elapses between when the customer places an order and the actual delivery of the order.
Black (2008, p. 56) argues that lean production involves ‘a new production approach that focuses on different aspects such as time reduction, quality, flexibility, and teamwork’. To benefit from the lean production approach, organizations must entrench lean systems that minimize resource utilization in the production process and that maximize the output.
Charron, Harrington, and Voehl (2014) assert that the lean system is demand driven and focuses on ensuring that an organization achieves continuous improvement. Therefore, an organization only produces what the market requires. This aspect underscores the importance of integrating effective lean systems in the pursuit of competitive advantage. In the process of implementing the lean system, Uniq Limited management should take into account the following components as the core building blocks.
The first aspect that the organization should take into consideration entails the product design. Under the product design, the company should ensure that the standard parts that workers are required to use in the production process are specified.
The organization should establish modular designs, which entails building smaller subsystems that should operate independently. Additionally, the organization should ensure that the lean system integrates a comprehensive quality system. This aspect will ensure that the final product adheres to the company’s quality specifications.
The firm should ensure that the manufacturing process is well designed. To achieve this goal, the firm should consider several aspects. The core issues entail designing small lot sizes, setting up the required time reduction, and developing the manufacturing cells. The manufacturing cells entail establishing specific and efficient production centers.
Thus, Uniq Limited should establish manufacturing centers for its footwear and apparel product categories. Establishing the manufacturing cells is critical in the organizations pursuit to maximize equipment utilization. Moreover, the cost of training workers is reduced because of the ease with which the organization can integrate the cross-employee training technique.
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Employing the cross training technique is critical is essential in ensuring that the organization maximizes its human capital. For example, in the event of employee absenteeism, the firm can be able to conduct the production employee by implementing cross-departmental task delegation.
The design process component should further be comprised of a quality improvement process. The reason for integrating a quality improvement process is to improve the ease with which the organization identifies quality defects in the production process. Subsequently, Uniq Limited will be able to improve the overall quality of the final product continuously.
To improve the contribution of the lean system to the firm, Uniq Limited should ensure that the production process is flexible. This move will provide the firm with an opportunity to make the necessary adjustments easily to cater for market changes (Cudney, Furterer, & Dietrich 2013).
The Process design component should further entrench a balanced system. The balanced system should take into account two main aspects. First, the organization should ensure that the production cycle time is aligned with the customers demand. Secondly, the production process should be based on an effectively designed work shift system.
Thus, the production workload should be equitably distributed amongst the various workstations. Equitable distribution of workload is fundamental to ensuring that employees in some workstations are not overworked. Thus, the likelihood of an error occurring in the production process due to fatigue is minimized. Moreover, balancing the workload is critical in promoting employee productivity. Huthwaite (2007) asserts that a balanced working system promotes employee productivity.
In the process of developing the process design, Uniq Limited should take into account inventory storage. The firm should ensure that the production process does not require long inventory storage duration. On the contrary, the inventory storage duration should be reduced as much as possible.
Slack, Alistair, and Betts (2012) argue that minimizing the inventory storage duration enables an origination to limit the inventory carrying or holding duration. Nevertheless, the firm should maintain inventory buffers to eliminate delays in the production process due to resource shortage.
Personnel and organizational components
Despite the incorporation of effective product and process designs, the contribution of the lean system to an organization’s performance is subject to the level of employee commitment. Thus, Uniq Limited should consider its workforce as its most critical asset in implementing the lean system. To make the lean system functional, the firm should ensure that the employees are adequately trained and motivated.
The training process should not only be limited to operations function. On the contrary, the training should be broad by focusing on areas such as problem-solving, statistical process control and quality improvement. Furthermore, the firm should consider integrating the cross-training approach to promote flexibility and line balancing in the production process.
The rationale for training employees is to eradicate the talent gap that might hinder the efficiency with which the firm responds to the customers’ demands. Slack, Alistair, and Betts (2012, p, 87) assert that lean manufacturing systems ‘require highly skilled and educated employees to inspect, repair, and design the layout of the automated production technology’. This approach will enable the firm to minimize the duration that employees require to undertake the assigned production activities.
In addition to training, the organization should ensure that the employees are motivated. This goal can be attained by giving employees an opportunity to make decisions related to the firms’ production process. In this case, Uniq Limited should give its workforce an opportunity to develop product designs to be considered for production purposes. This aspect will play a fundamental role in making employees develop the perception of being valued in the organization’s continuous improvement process.
In line with its commitment to satisfy the customers’ demand, Uniq Limited has integrated the project approach. Thus, the firm’s production activities are project based. The firm adopted the project-based approach because it specializes in the production of fast fashion.
Thus, a specific production process must be completed within the set timeframe. Successful employee development will further be subject to the level of employee interaction. Thus, the firm should consider integrating the two-way communication approach. However, to promote two-way communication, the company should ensure that an effective leadership style is adopted. Mahaevan (2010) asserts that the leadership style has a direct influence on the employees’ commitment to job tasks.
Manufacturing planning and control
The last element that Uniq Limited should focus on in the implementation of the lean system entails manufacturing planning and control. Successful implementation of this building block depends on how effective the management team is committed to implementing different elements.
The first element involves level loading, which entails the determination of the most appropriate sequence to adopt in the production process. The apparel and footwear production process at Uniq Limited is interdependent and moves from across different stages. Thus, the firm should consider the firm should integrate the push manufacturing system. This system is critical in eliminating errors.
In its quest to ensure that the lean system contributes to improvement in the effectiveness of the project-based approach, Uniq Limited should foster the development of two-way communication within the firm. The two-way communication should not only be limited to workers. On the contrary, it should exist between the organization’s managers and lower level employees.
The significance of establishing effective communication in the lean system is to promote efficient workflow between the various workstations. Subsequently, workers in the respective workstations appreciate the importance of collaborating in the production process. Thus, the likelihood of successful production is increased.
Implementation of technology
To integrate the lean system in its operation successfully, Uniq Limited should consider automating some of its operation functions. The implementation of technology is critical in minimizing the cost of operation. For example, the firms should consider automating the inventory management and employee training process.
This aspect will minimize the amount of time and resources required to develop employees. On the other hand, automating the inventory management process will aid in reducing the cycle time. Alternatively, the product designing and quality control process should be automated to minimize errors in the final product.
Strategic advantages of lean systems
Uniq Limited is likely to benefit considerably by implementing the lean system. Some of the strategic benefits that the firm might acquire are expounded herein.
Effective implementation of the lean system requires an organization to develop a well skilled and knowledgeable workforce. To achieve this goal, organizations intending to integrate the lean systems have an obligation to design and implement a comprehensive employees’ training program (Slack, Alistair, & Betts 2012).
By developing a competent and skilled workforce, Uniq Limited will benefit from increased employee productivity. For example, the firm’s employees will be promoting the firm’s ability to undertake continuous product improvement.
High product quality
Implementation of the lean system will increase the company’s competitiveness in the changing business environment. The integration of the lean system in the production process underscores the importance of teamwork in executing different operations functions.
Through teamwork, the firm’s employees will have an opportunity to brainstorm and share ideas on how to undertake the assigned production tasks effectively and efficiently. Thus, the chance of the team members developing feasible solutions on matters associated with product quality will be improved remarkably. Therefore, the firm will deliver high-quality products to the target customers.
Lean systems are based on minimal utilization of resources and maximization of output. For example, the lean system underscores the importance of operating using a lean workforce. Thus, the cost of operation arising from a large salaries and wage budget is reduced.
Moreover, optimizing the resources available will enable the firm to minimize the occurrence of wastage in the production process. The reduction of operations and manufacturing costs increases the likelihood of an organization maximizing its profitability. A lean system further leads to the reduction in the overall cost of operation by limiting the inventory levels and the carrying cost (Slack, Alistair, & Betts 2012).
Uniq Limited decision to implement the lean system in its operations function can contribute to remarkable improvement in the firm’s performance. The improvement in the firm’s competitiveness will arise from the strategic benefits associated with the lean systems. Some of the core benefits include increased productivity, reduced cost of operation, and production of high-quality products. However, the firm must ensure that the lean system is implemented effectively by taking into account the fundamental building blocks.
Black, J 2008, Lean production; implementing a world-class system, Industrial Press, New York.
Charron, R, Harrington, J & Voehl, F 2014, The lean management systems Handbook, CRC Press, New Jersey.
Cudney, E, Furterer, S & Dietrich, D 2013, Lean systems; applications and case studies in manufacturing, service and health care, CRC Press, New York.
Huthwaite, B 2007, The lean design solution; a practical guide to streamlining product design and development, Institute for Lean Design, Mackinac Island.
Mahaevan, B 2010, Operations management; theory and practice, Pearson, Upper Saddle River.
Slack, N, Alistair, B & Betts, J 2012, Operations and process management, principles and practices for strategic impact, Pearson, Harlow.