Lean Project in the Food Industry

Lean Project in the Food Industry

Lean Project in the Food Industry

At several occasions we’ve come across  comments that the Lean tools are not being applied in the food industry in Bulgaria. The aim of the post is to disprove these statements and to share in short the effects that can be achieved there.

In an average size company producing sweet blocks we started a project for improving the organization through the Lean tools. The company is relatively young – at about 5 years old, it produces an innovative product and is growing fast.

Till now big attention was not given to the effectiveness of the production. Visibly the Value-adding lines were not well balanced, and many different wastes were happening: piles of Inventory (work in progress) at certain moments, uneven and incomplete operators’ loading, delaying and shortage of some materials leading to downtime of machines and people in the shopfloor.


The team plans improvements in the shopfloor layout of the pilot line

The Lean Project included:

  • Analysis of the flow and timing of the operations;
  • Improvement of the layout of the production;
  • Balancing of the load of the operators;
  • Creation of pull systems (Kan-ban) for the main materials and sub-products;
  • 5S introduction at workstations. 

Value Stream Map (VSM) in the pilot line. Kaizen points are added – from the VSM workshop.

Distinctively for the project – these tools were synchronized with the sanitary requirements typical for that industry.

By the words of the production manager the main effects of the application of the Lean tools are the following:

  • “We achieved very good flow of the products – we eliminated unnecessary handling and transport of materials in the shopfloor.
  • In the pilot line the labor productivity was increased at about 20%. In the packing activities the improvement was with the same scope.
  • The introduction of Kan-ban for the materials and sub-products helped us a lot to have

    Kan-ban for processed materials in the food industry 

    available  all needed materials at any time without overstocking and violation of the hygiene requirements. Already there is no need to stop the production to prepare sub-products and from the other side we do not keep big inventory of them.

  • Working in a takt. We are convinced now that it is possible to achieve better labor productivity if the work is synchronized, even if the pace of some machines is reduced.
  • We arranged and organized the warehouses.
  • We optimized the quantities of materials in the stores. Before it was happening that we were left without main materials and had to stop work as the lead time of some materials is 3 months. By using the lean tools we defined the reorder points for the materials in a way to prevent overstocking also.
  • 5S helped us to be more orderly and organized.”

With all this we hope that we have convinced the colleagues regarding possibilities for improvement and Lean application the food industry is not much different from the other industries including the automotive.