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Lean manufacturing at Smith & Newphew

John White, engineering project manager at Smith & Nephew Orthopedics, cites globalization, and a 'one-piece flow,' lean manufacturing process as critical future issues.

"As we expand into new global markets, we need to ensure that our packaging processes are consistent and effective, even though we may use local equipment and packaging supplies," White says. "This requires developing expertise at the plant level and managing these resources from overseas."

He believes, "In addition to our traditional role as engineers, we are also rapidly becoming flexible trainers as we start up global operations. Starting an operation in Europe presents different challenges than starting one in the Far East, even though the products could be the same."

Another critical issue for White concerns "smaller production runs, with equipment that is both flexible and easy to change over.

Our goal is to achieve a one-piece flow packaging operation," he says, defining the term as "a lean manufacturing concept in which parts are produced one at a time (or in small batches).

"Companies that have effectively implemented one-piece flow," White says, "benefit from less work-in-process, quicker throughput times, increased output, enhanced quality, 'freed-up' production floor space, and a reduction in machine and operator errors." He declares, "This is a major change from traditional methods of packaging. As we transition, we have seen packaging lead times cut by 40- to 50-percent. Our goal is to create processes that can move to another room or building at a moment's notice."

--By Jim Butschi, Editor
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