In the wake of the horse meat scandal that is sweeping the nation, we thought we’d lend a sympathetic post to the suffering manufacturers in the Food processing and manufacturing industry- a sector which has benefitted hugely over the years from the benefits of Lean Manufacturing techniques, horse meat or no horse meat…
There is a common misconception that Lean Manufacturing and related continuous improvement practices do not dispose themselves towards easy deployment in industries that have large batch production elements, such as the food processing and beverage sectors. Normally these businesses sell their products from large distribution or product-mixing centres, and do not utilise make-to-order techniques. They produce to a predefined forecast, and the forecasted lead time to production is usually long, meaning substantial differences between the forecast that dictates production level, and real demand.
This gaps’ net result is high inventory holding levels, typically with finished goods; some food products have extremely long procurement lead time. Many agricultural products have timely growing cycles, and others somewhat shorter periods between picking and sale to the consumer. Shelf life for some goods can be very short, and for others procurement cycles can end up spanning over a year, with procurement being exacted via large scale commodity markets.
Food processing lead-time, which is from the beginning when a machine is switched on to make, to the final stage of packaging can, however, be fairly short. Variable lead times, growing cycle times and production lead times add further and unwanted complexity to an already complex process.
Some of the issues that food and beverage manufacturers face processors in terms of adopting Lean manufacturing approaches to improvement are as follows:
- Lack of leadership.
- Lack of a clear future operating model and of what is possible to achieve.
- Failure to link kaizen processes with BAU. Stakeholders see it as a separate program and not part of everyone’s day-to-day/formal work
- Lack of patience and motivation to follow-through.
- Failure to understand that lean is a good strategy to achieve competitive advantage.
- Failure to engage and involve stakeholders at all levels in the process.
- Lack of constant visibility by management on the shop floor or gemba.
- Presuming that lean methods cost a lot of money.
- Failure to recognize that management must use lean methods to change corporate culture.
- Management failing to take a whole view of the business and to identify connections between all processes.