An Essential Tool to Help You Follow Lean Principles

by | Jul 19, 2021 | IoT

Lean Principles in Manufacturing

What are “the” Lean principles in manufacturing? There’s a lot of key aspects and rules that go into lean manufacturing, and five main principles you should strive to follow-

  1. Define Value

  2. Map the Value Stream 

  3. Create Flow

  4. Establish Pull

  5. Pursue Perfection

If you want more detailed information on these five principles, we have a separate article that gives a more in-depth breakdown, check it out here.

This time I will do the opposite, and try to sum everything up in a more simple, easy-to-read format.

When following lean principles- you are looking for waste, scrap, and people’s motion. Your ultimate goal as a lean manufacturer is to eliminate as much waste as possible and create a highly efficient environment.

In this article, we will talk about how you can utilize IIoT to give you a massive boost in accomplishing your lean manufacturing goals.

Why IIoT is your Best Friend when trying to Follow Lean Principles

How does IIoT assist in your lean manufacturing efforts? Remember your goal in lean is to eliminate as much waste as you possibly can. IIoT helps you measure that waste, it’s an enabler for lean. You still have to find out what to adjust or what to fix, but IIoT can gather the data you need to make these decisions. IIoT also gathers data in an extremely efficient manner, eliminating wasted time with inefficient manual data entry. If you put a large emphasis on following lean principles but have an inefficient way of gathering data, it can be a little contradictory. Its simple, inefficient processes create more waste. IIoT systems have the ability to efficiently deliver real-time data. This provides a substantial amount of value and falls right in line with lean principles.

Common Issues that IIoT can Help with

One common issue that we see frequently, is understanding downtime and downtime awareness. Every manufacturer has to deal with downtime whether it’s planned or unplanned downtime. There are always going to be stoppages on the plant floor. Being able to really understand the reasons for downtime is something that most manufacturers should put more effort into.

IIoT can provide you with the information that you need in a simple way so that you can begin to pick up on tendencies and understand what is causing downtime on the plant floor.

Here are a couple of real-life examples that we have seen ourselves here at Ectobox. Each of these clients had lean issues that could be fixed with an IIoT system and gathering real-time data on the plant floor.

Client 1

This client produced a lot of home health products and filled gel caps. Some of the guys on the plant floor said their machine should be producing 3000 products in x amount of time, but they were only getting 2100. They were asking “where is my remaining 30% capacity?” They want to and need to understand where the lost production is coming from. It could be attributed to materials not showing up to the machine on time, in this specific case it could be the powder they were using to fill the gel caps, it could be cleaning the machine, or inadequate maintenance. The list goes on, there are many factors that could be causing this loss in production.

How do you determine the real cause? Start trying different fixes one by one and hope for the best? That would be a huge waste of time and resources. What they needed was an IIoT system to extract deep sets of big data directly from the equipment in real-time. With this information, they could see the root cause of the problem. Then, they made an educated, data-driven decision to improve capacity.

Client 2

This company was polishing large sheets of sheet metal. This process included using a big machine that has 21 stages and each stage has 4 buffing pads. One of the key parameters was the distance between the sheets as they are fed into the machine because if the buffing pads were level, they would go right from one sheet to the next. If there is a gap between the sheets, the buffing pad will dip down and then ride back up once it hits the next sheet that was just a little too far away. This would damage the edges of these sheets, creating a lot of scrap. Having the data to find these problems and make small adjustments can yield big results. If they didn’t make this minor adjustment, correcting the spacing between the sheets, they would be left with a large number of damaged products and lost revenue.

At this same company, two of their key decision-makers told us that they spend half of their day running around the shop floor trying to figure out where orders are – “Did they start yet? How far into the process are they?”

This company typically had 24-48 hour turnaround times for most of their orders so this happened a lot.

They would get calls asking- “Did my job stop? How many sheets are done? When can I expect delivery?” Right now, they have people that run out to the shop floor, figure out which machine the job being run on, ask the operator how many sheets they have run, come back and type up an email, then send it to the salesperson, then the salesperson finally communicates to the customer.

This is a lot of inefficient motion. Too much travel time, too many people to go through, and overall a very inefficient process. With IIoT, all of this information would be readily available to each person in real-time, whenever they need it. This aspect of IIoT alone could double the daily workflow for this company.

More IIoT Benefits

In-Process Status

In-process status is huge and this is a great example of why. Not necessarily a problem you run into, but it is very useful and will improve your process.

The process that the second company was using was highly inefficient. It also looked bad to the customer because it seems unorganized. IIoT systems can automate this process so that you won’t have people running around all over the shop floor multiple times every day, and customers can receive accurate updates and delivery times.

Reasons for Scrap

Reducing scrap is cost-saving, but also a time saver. If you are having trouble delivering products on time that means you don’t have time to do these things once, let alone twice.

Understanding Root Causes

IIoT helps drive your efforts in following lean principles by assisting in understanding the root cause of problems on the plant floor. What’s driving the scrap or rework? Knowing that you have a problem tells you where you need to focus. Understanding the root cause helps you fix the problem.


IIoT helps you follow lean principles by delivering real-time data in an efficient manner. At the end of the day, you have to remember the main goal of lean manufacturing- Eliminating waste and creating an efficient manufacturing process. Use IIoT to improve plant floor efficiency, deliver information on time, acquire accurate real-time data, use that data to communicate to customers, make adjustments to reduce waste, and improve your overall manufacturing process.

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