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point of view column Time for a Lean Diet by Steve Williams Steve Williams Consulting LLC In the drive to continuous improvement, while Lean is one of the most powerful tools available to organizations, it is also one of the most underutilized. What follows is a primer for companies considering the Lean journey. We strive to decide our own fate. We act with self-reliance, trusting in our own abilities. We accept responsibility for our conduct and for maintaining and improving the skills that enable us to produce added value. —from Toyota Motor Corporation's internal document, "Toyota Way." For whatever reason, PCB fabricators as a whole have yet to truly embrace the Lean manufacturing philosophy that has permeated OEM and EMS factories. My clients often push back; contending that Lean is just another "flavor of the month" quality initiative that will soon fall by the wayside. They ask, "If I am providing product ontime and of a high quality, why should I care about Lean?" My answer is simple: 56 The PCB Magazine • January 2014 price and flexibility. The former is about dollars (and by the way, it's always about the dollars). One way or another, your customers are paying for your process inefficiencies. The latter is about lead-time. In the highly dynamic environment that we all play in today, one of the major drivers is flexibility, and the biggest constraint on flexibility is lead-time. The opening quote captures the values and ideals of Taiichi Ohno, one of the inventors of the Toyota Way that were tasked with transforming Toyota into the world-class manufacturing enterprise that it is today. This column is intended to provide an overview of Lean and the potential benefits of it as a differentiator. Does it work? The short answer is an emphatic yes! Let's look at dollars (have I mentioned that it's always about the dollars?). In 2012, Toyota earned almost a billion dollars more than General Motors, Ford and Chrysler combined. General Electric attributes global competi-

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