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Pilot Study: Applying Lean to Factory Home Building

Pilot Study: Applying Lean to Factory Home Building
July 2007 69 pages

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Going lean can raise morale and productivity.

Lean production is an approach to manufacturing that strives to eliminate all kinds of waste (time, money, materials, etc.) while creating a culture within the plant of continuous improvement. Lean processes have long been used in other industries, notably automotive, to improve quality while reducing the overall cost of production; however, they are relatively new to the factory built housing industry.

Before the RPI the area was cluttered with materials (Figure 14). The workspace is now clean and organized (Figure 15). The process is more clearly visible, promoting the lean principle of visual management.
Nine manufactured and modular home production plants were trained and coached in the implementation of lean production methods to their manufacturing facilities. Representatives from each plant attended a week-long training workshop on lean production conducted by the Manufactured Housing Research Alliance (MHRA). Following the workshop, researchers from MHRA helped plant employees analyze their production process using a lean production tool known as value stream mapping. Value stream mapping helped the plants identify waste and target specific portions of the production process for intensive improvement activities known as rapid process improvement (RPI) events, conducted with MHRA support.

Results from the RPI events indicate that lean production techniques can provide striking efficiency, quality and other improvements for housing plants. Specific plant production departments experienced productivity improvements ranging from 10% to over 100%. Examples of quality improvements included one plant where defects in the finished drywall process were reduced by 85%. Taken as a whole, the lean production activities have boosted worker morale and improved communication between management and workers.

Each plant conducted at least three major RPI events over the course of eight months. At the conclusion of the project, representatives from the nine plants reconvened to share experiences in an industry-wide symposium.

Content updated on 9/6/2007

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