Lean Manufacturing and the Food Industry. Essay

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1 There is a general perception that Lean Manufacturing and related continuous improvement businesses do not lend themselves to easy application in industries that have large batch processes, like the food and beverage industries. Typically these business types sell their product from large distribution or product mixing centers, and are not make to order businesses. They manufacture to a forecast, and usually the forecast lead time to production is long, resulting in large differences between the forecast that drives production levels, and actual demand. The net result of this gap is large levels of inventory holdings, typically in finished goods; however, some food products also have extraordinary long procurement lead times. Many agricultural products have long growing and maturing cycles, and others very short cycles between picking and sale to the end user. Shelf life for many products can be extremely short, and for other products, procurement cycles are well over a year, with procurement being executed through large scale commodity markets. Food processing lead times, that is from the time a machine is turned on to make, to the final packaging can however be quite short. These many variable combinations of lead times, growing cycle times and production lead times add complexity to an already complex business. We shall examine some of the issues that food and beverage manufacturers face. The biggest obstacles for food and beverage processors in terms of adopting Lean manufacturing approaches to improvement. Notwithstanding the many differences to other industries, the food and beverage industry has many similarities to other industries. Not the least of these is the fact that product is processed just like other forms of manufacturing. Health and safety considerations add to the complexity of processes, but do not alter the fact that they

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