MSU researcher outlines lean system for furniture production


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Posted: 5/27/2003


Lean production—an engineering term for the ability to produce more with less—is the subject of a new book co-authored by a Mississippi State faculty member.

Associate professor Steve L. Hunter of the university's Forest and Wildlife Research Center has collaborated with J. T. Black on a reference work titled "Lean Manufacturing Systems and Cell Design." The 336-page edition is published by the Society of Manufacturing Engineers.

In addition to serving in MSU's Institute of Furniture Manufacturing and Management, Hunter works with Mississippi and Southeastern furniture manufacturers to improve their productivity and international competitiveness.

Based on decades of study and firsthand observations of prominent companies, he and Black—an Auburn University professor emeritus of industry and systems engineering—detail how to design and introduce lean cellular systems in commercial furniture operations.

"Lean processes first were pioneered by Toyota Motor Co. and have become the modern standard for creating value while eliminating waste in manufacturing,” Hunter said. "The Japanese developed lean production techniques to reduce inventory levels, thus increasing cash flow.”

Using a 10-step methodology, the authors demonstrate how lean processes can produce superior quality products at a low cost while increasing the competitiveness of manufacturers who adopt the concept.

"Lean processes involve a linked-cell manufacturing system that provides for a continuous flow of materials through a plant,” Hunter said. "Implementing lean manufacturing requires a systems-level change for the factory that will impact every segment of the company, from accounting to shipping.”

Hunter said the 15-chapter book outlines steps to the process, which begins with re-engineering of the manufacturing system as the foundation for lean production.

"Just as the first step in home construction is to build a strong and sustainable foundation, the first step in manufacturing is to build a strong and linked-cell system that integrates production, inventory and quality control with machine-tool maintenance,” Hunter explained.

The publication also highlights the use of advanced automation and three-dimensional software in simulating manufacturing flow, as well as the impact ergonomics has on employee productivity.

"Lean manufacturing is the manufacturing system of the future,” Hunter said. "Companies today need to be more productive than the competition at providing customers with high-quality goods and services. If these goods are provided at a low cost and in a timely manner, a company will thrive and become a factory with a future.”

Hunter, a faculty member in the forest products department, holds a bachelor's degree in manufacturing engineering technology from Berry College. His master's and doctoral degrees in industrial engineering were completed at Auburn.

For more information on the book or how lean processes can be implemented in a manufacturing plant, contact Hunter at (662) 325-8344 or by e-mail at

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