Q&A with Lean Manufacturing Expert

Consultant Darren Dolcemascolo Covers a Few Lean Manufacturing Issues

Reduced waste, enhanced production efficiency, and improved quality are just a few of the many benefits realized by companies that adopt lean-manufacturing principles. Consultant Darren Dolcemascolo, an expert on lean manufacturing, will explore how specialty graphics producers can incorporate lean methods into their own business models during his presentation at the next Signage and Graphics Summit, Jan. 26-28, 2009, at Rancho Bernardo Inn, San Diego, CA. Here’s a preview of some of the issues he will cover:

SGS: Why should a company prioritize becoming leaner and more efficient today? Don’t many executives tend to back-burner new initiatives like this in uncertain economic times?

DD: Some executives tend to put improvement initiatives like lean on the back-burner when times get tough because they are not viewed as critical, but others, who have a longer term view, seize the opportunity to make improvements when the economy is bad. Lean can help companies navigate a bad economy in three ways:

• Lean implementation results in a shorter lead-time and lower inventory; this frees up of cash (through inventory reduction) and faster response time to the customer.

• Lean thinking results in greater productivity—the ability to produce more value with the same or fewer resources, driving down production costs.

• Lean thinking improves quality. Better quality results in greater customer satisfaction and efficiency.

Each of these key benefits enables a company to grow during tough times while simultaneously freeing up cash and driving costs down.

SGS: What’s the most common reason businesses don’t get the results they expect from a lean program?

DD: The most common reason lean initiatives fail is company leadership teams not understanding what lean is. Many times, management views lean as a project that someone in the organization can be tasked with implementing. In reality, lean is a culture change that requires active leadership and all-employee involvement. If the leadership team of an organization is committed to lean and actively involved in the initiative, success is inevitable. Company leadership must communicate a lean vision to all employees, teach them the lean principles, and get them involved.

SGS: You’ve worked with a few companies in the sign industry. Did you notice anything about their operations that lend themselves to lean manufacturing principles?

DD: Yes, two things in particular: Sign companies have a complex pre-production process that affects delivery time to the customer, and they have a job-shop production environment. Lean isn’t just about eliminating waste. It also brings value to the customer by giving them the products they want when they want them, and not on a schedule dictated by manufacturing. This has two ramifications for sign companies.

1. They must focus on reducing the time from when the customer places the order, to the point when production of the job begins. Many times, the pre-production processes take so much of the promised lead time that little time is left to actually produce the product.

2. In the production area, sign companies must focus on creating flexible manufacturing capabilities that will allow them to move resources where they need to be to produce what customers want on demand and with the least amount of waste.


Darren Dolcemascolo is senior partner and co-founder of EMS Consulting Group. He is an internationally recognized lecturer, author, and consultant on lean-manufacturing principles.

For more information about the Signage and Graphics Summit and Dolcemascolo’s presentation, visit www.signageandgraphics.com.


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