Lean Manufacturing: Where Does Your Label Company Fit In?

By The Label Printers

Lean Manufacturing: Where Does Your Label Company Fit In?

Lean manufacturing is all about doing as much as you can with as little as you need. Lean means stripping away wasteful processes, unnecessary steps, and nonessential resources and focusing on what matters most: creating value for customers.

In other words, lean manufacturing is efficient manufacturing. But where do your labels fit into the process?

Whether your company practices lean manufacturing formally or, like many companies, is simply interested in reducing waste and increasing efficiency, the right label printer will work with you to ensure the label printing and distribution process aligns with your goals.

Are You Lean?

The concept of lean manufacturing traces its roots to an operating model pioneered by Toyota in the 20th century.

Lean manufacturing enthusiasts tend to throw around jargon such as “value stream,” “rank order clustering,” and “single-point scheduling.” But the gist of it is that everything a manufacturing company does, every resource it allocates, should be in the service of adding value to the product.

From a lean perspective, “value” refers to only those aspects of a product that customers are willing to pay for. Everything else is waste.

Lean adherents aim to create a “pull”-oriented workflow. They let demand—not potentially inaccurate market forecasts—determine production and inventory. Lean manufacturers streamline their processes to produce just enough products to fulfill short-term need. Excess inventory of materials and finished products is seen as inefficient.

The Toyota model describes “seven wastes” that subtract value from a product:

  1. Unnecessary transportation.
  2. Excess inventory.
  3. Unnecessary movement of people or equipment.
  4. Waiting (idle people or equipment).
  5. Overproduction.
  6. Overprocessing (adding more features than customers need or want).
  7. Defects.

Eliminating these wastes as much as possible will benefit any manufacturer, even if they don’t subscribe to the lean philosophy.

It’s worth noting, however, that with pandemic-related disturbances to various supply chains, some companies may wish to make adjustments to their lean practices (they may decide to create more inventory than usual, for example, to hedge their bets against a potential material shortage).

Whether your company is a lean machine or just leaning toward the idea, a label company that understands the lean manufacturing philosophy will help you meet your goals.

Lean Manufacturing and Labels

The lean manufacturing approach typically first takes hold internally, as companies review and improve their operations and workflows. Over time, however, lean often becomes ingrained in the company culture, filtering into functions such as design and procurement.

That’s where label printing comes in.

One straightforward way your label company can help you stay lean is by providing the labels you need (and only the labels you need) precisely when you need them.

Of course, this will require a certain degree of flexibility and preparedness on the part of your label company. If a flexible, on-demand printing schedule is important to your business, bring it up with your label company at the start of your relationship so you and they can discuss options.

For example, your printer might suggest that you put in a blanket order covering six months or so. The printer will hold onto your labels and release them to you bit by bit, as you request them. This way, you will benefit from volume pricing without accumulating excess inventory.

(Occasionally, lean-oriented companies overlook the cost-saving advantages of volume pricing, which can be significant in label printing. Remember, it’s not just about reducing inventory. Saving money is an important element of lean manufacturing, as well.)

Other ways your label company can help you stay lean include:

  • Helping you choose the best material options for the most cost-effective solution.
  • Ensuring the optimum size to reduce waste and lower cost.
  • Recommending lighter-weight label materials to lower your shipping costs and storage requirements.
  • Maximizing roll sizes for your automatic application and/or thermal imprinting processes to reduce downtime.

Whether or not you describe your business as lean, it’s a good sign if your label company initiates the conversation with you about saving time and reducing waste. This is the difference between a label company that simply takes orders and one that acts as a trusted partner who is invested in helping you grow and succeed.

At the Label Printers, we’re committing to helping our clients get the most out of every label. We’re familiar with the latest lean manufacturing concepts, such as Kanban and just-in-time manufacturing. Contact us today to talk about maximizing efficiency and eliminating waste through your label production process.

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Tags: Inventory Management, Sustainability