Lean manufacturing focuses on creating an efficient, effective organization. Properly using Lean principles and techniques as a manufacturer allow that manufacturer to reduce waste, create more customer value, increase revenue and profits of the company, and more.
In this blog post, we will discuss what it is, where it came from, why it’s valuable, and tie in how IIoT can significantly increase the impact of Lean efforts.
What is Lean Manufacturing?
Lean Manufacturing was just a list of good manufacturing practices at the start. However, over time, it has had a large impact on the way manufacturers run their plants. It is like a set of guidelines that affect the way we work, what we learn, and how we manage everything. There are 5 main principles within Lean Manufacturing:
Value is whatever someone is willing to pay for something. This is not one specific number, it will vary from person to person. Take time to discover the actual needs of your customer. A lot of times, a customer may not know exactly what they need, or may not be able to express it the right way. It is then your job to figure out your customer’s needs. Some ways you can reach this goal is conducting interviews or looking at case studies and analytics. Then, once you have defined what your customer needs, you can then determine what exactly they want, how much, when, and what fits their price range.
Map the Value Stream
The second principle in Lean Manufacturing is identifying and mapping the value stream. Once you have found the value, here you are using that value as a reference point. The first step is to review and diagram the flow of product through your plant and document the processes (manual and automated) that are executed on that production. Data should be recorded for each process including cycle and takt times, wait times, and others. Then, we need to evaluate all of those activities in and determine if each activity is adding to this value. If an activity does not add to the value, it is considered waste. Waste can be categorized in two different ways: Non-value added but necessary, this should be reduced as much as possible; Non-value added and not necessary, this should be completely eliminated. By following this principle, you can make sure the customer is getting exactly what they need. You are also making sure that your plant is running as efficiently as possible.
After establishing the value, and mapping the value stream, next you need to create flow with the remaining steps, avoid delays and interruptions. You can do this by making sure your employees are skilled and adaptive, break down each step, and make sure everyone is on the same page. These are just a few of the many things that you can do to keep production consistent and running smoothly.
One of the biggest wastes in any production system is inventory. A pull-based system is meant to limit inventory as much as possible while ensuring that the materials needed are available right at the time you need them. This in effect, limits waste while also keeping a smooth workflow.
Throughout the first four steps, you are eliminating as much waste as you possibly can. This step is making Lean thinking and continuous improvement a part of your culture. Everyone in the company should strive for perfection and deliver products to the customer based on their needs, and the first four principles. Developing a mindset that focuses on developing a better organization and finding ways to make more efficient processes is the goal.
Where did Lean Manufacturing come from?
To really understand this, we need to go back to the start of modern manufacturing. Henry Ford was the first person to start implementing mass production. In Ford’s production, there was a continuous movement of parts, it was not just one one-off production. This was a massive breakthrough at the time, and it allowed for the production time for a part to be just a few minutes. That is a huge difference from the few hours or days that it previously took.
Soon after, Sakichi Toyoda started to produce vehicles. This was the company that later became known as Toyota. Toyota spent a lot of time studying Ford’s production process. The problem was that the market in Japan was not the same as it was in America. The Japanese market was a lot smaller, and a lot more diverse. They knew that Ford’s production system was very efficient for mass-producing products, but Toyota needed to have a bigger emphasis on the customer’s voice, and what they really needed.
What was Toyota’s solution? They made their own new production process, still taking a lot of ideas from Ford. Toyota needed to make different sized machines for manufacturing different products. This introduced the idea of self-monitoring machines and processes. This was a refined version of Ford’s process. It allowed for more variety which was cheaper, faster, and provided higher quality. This became a well-known manufacturing process, commonly referred to as the “Toyota Production System” (TPS). This was the beginning of Lean Manufacturing.
Why does Lean Manufacturing matter, what’s the Value?
There are numerous benefits to Lean Manufacturing. If you use the principles of Lean Manufacturing you will have a more efficient plant, with less waste, and increased productivity. The overall idea is continually making your production process focus on what the customer needs, how to get there, and nothing else.
These are a few areas that will be improved if you are properly implementing Lean Manufacturing Principles.
Product Quality will be improved, the improved efficiency will lead to more innovation, and employees will have more time and resources to focus on product quality.
Creating more profit, in less time, with less waste will only lead you in the right direction to a long-lasting and growing business.
Using Lean principles, you get more productivity, smarter employees, better quality products, and better processes with continuous improvement. This allows you to generate more revenue and more profits.
You will develop a better understanding of your processes, and better understand how your machines operate. This gives you a better perspective so you can respond to market fluctuations and other unforeseen circumstances. The result is better lead times and reduced delays.
Employees will be more involved, and they will have a better understanding and expectation of what they should accomplish and focus on each day. They will be able to produce more and have more insight. This means happier, smarter employees.
How Does IIoT Tie in?
We know that there is a long list of benefits to Lean Manufacturing, but how can IIoT help you get these results?
Lean uses data to determine how well a system is running before and after it is improved. Much of that data collected and analyzed is done manually.
If you are going to make all of these changes to your production process, you need a lot of data to base your decisions on. An IIoT system automates the gathering and analysis of that data. Going through and gathering all of this data manually might have been a common process some years ago. Today, we have systems that can automate this process for us entirely.
The data available from IIoT solutions enables us to drive the principles of Lean manufacturing. Remember, your goal is to make the most efficient and effective processes possible. An IIoT system can gather more data, in a much faster way compared to having a person collect manually. You can actually get data in real-time, and start making improvements right away, as opposed to looking at a datasheet from yesterday or last week. You can have real-time metrics, and metrics from weeks, months, even years prior right in front of you at any time.
This expedites your manufacturing process, while also giving your employees a deeper understanding of the machines they are working with, and more time to focus on improving their workflows, machines, and production inefficiencies.
Want more information on how IIoT and Lean Manufacturing? Check out our other blog post here, that solely focuses on that topic.