Lean Production or also called Lean Manufacturing is a term that is originated in the 1950s at Toyota in Japan. The idea of Lean Manufacturing is to reduce or minimize waste and to use the production factors in the company sparingly and efficiently. This includes materials, personnel and operating resources. Flat hierarchies are supposed to create a simple organization and communication – thereby increasing productivity and simultaneously reducing costs.
Core areas of Lean Manufacturing
1. Increase of productivity
The increase in productivity applies, for example, when production factors are reduced and output remains constant. On the other hand, the original quantity of production factors could also be used, but this must then lead to a higher output in the production process.
An increase in productivity can also be generated by the just-in-time approach. In this case, inventories are reduced and unused capacities and process times are reduced.
2. Product quality
Through regular quality controls, errors and quality defects in products are directly identified and can be quickly corrected and reworked. Product rejections are avoided in this way. The quality controls also ensure that the entire production process is continuously improved. The “Zero Fault Gates” are a proven method for this.
If there is a high flexibility in the production, it is easier for these companies to offer different product variants and different required quantities. The more flexible a production process is, the more cost-effective and time-efficient the requested variants and quantities can be produced.
Why should companies establish Lean Manufacturing?
Companies have always been under high competitive pressure – the market is growing rapidly due to globalization and competitors are becoming better and better in their fields of expertise. Due to the strong competition, companies have to react flexibly to different customer requirements and guarantee high product quality.
Under these aspects, the profitability of the company must also be taken into account. Lean Manufacturing means that production resources are used efficiently and waste is avoided. This also leads to a reduction in costs.
Likewise, regular controls increase the quality of the products and the productivity of the processes. This leads to increased competitiveness and competitive advantages in the respective market.
Goals of Lean Manufacturing
Lean Manufacturing should lead to economic improvements in various areas:
- High product quality
- Achieving optimal productivity
- Flexibility in production
- Reduction of waste
- Efficient use of resources
- Cost minimization
Benefits of Lean Manufacturing
For example, Lean Manufacturing can identify unused production areas and inventories and consequently reduce them very easily. This saves space and, from a longer-term perspective, capital tied up in inventories.
Sources of error in production and associated product defects can be quickly identified and eliminated. Since Lean Manufacturing is closely linked to regular quality controls, production errors are quickly detected and can be reworked. Reworking the products prevents their rejection and saves costs at the same time.
The product diversity that comes with Lean Manufacturing due to the flexibility in the production process can lead to faster response and implementation of different customer requirements and thus increase customer satisfaction. In the long term, this leads to increased competitiveness.
Caution in Lean Manufacturing
Just-in-time deliveries reduce throughput times and inventories. As a result, delivery vehicles are not fully utilized, emissions per raw part increase and there is a very high dependency on suppliers and the supply chain. Here every company should weigh up and find a good average.
In addition, Lean Manufacturing must pay more attention to exact sales volumes and, if necessary, adjustments must be made as quickly as possible. If changes are made, low inventory levels can otherwise quickly lead to resource bottlenecks and production would come to a downtime.
Implementation of Lean Manufacturing
To introduce and establish Lean Manufacturing in a company, improvements should be made in small steps. There are several ways to do this.
PDCA stands for Plan-Do-Check-Act. This process is divided into four different phases to achieve detailed planning and control.
In the planning phase, problems are identified and documented in writing. An as-is analysis is carried out to gather information on the cause of the problem. A goal and the resulting measures for solving the problem can then be defined.
A well-known problem in the shopfloor are machine operators who need a machine adjuster in case of machine failures or changeovers. However, they are rarely available and usually not directly on location. Accordingly, machine operators often start their search on foot – this is time and cost intensive. The aim could therefore be to improve communication between the machine operator and adjuster in order to avoid long searches.
This is only to be understood as an example. Every company has their own problems and sets different standards for themselves. The aucobo system is a solution for a wide variety of problems on the shopfloor!
In the Do phase, the defined measures for achieving the goals are implemented. The documentation of all activities is essential. The measures should first be implemented and tested in individual departments. Only when the practicability and the potential for improvement turns out to be realistic it should then be extended to the entire company in a second step.
In this phase, employees must be involved in the workflow. As a measure, the employees could be equipped with Smartwatches and the aucobo system. This would mean that the machine operator would no longer have to walk to find the machine setter, but could request it quickly and easily at the touch of a button on the Smartwatch.
The check phase serves to clarify whether the defined goal has been achieved. For this purpose, the documentation of the activities is evaluated and possible adjustments are made. Based on this result, it will be decided whether the measures will be implemented throughout the company.
In the last phase, the act phase, the entire process is reflected and the measures are now considered as standard in the company.
If it is determined that the targets have not been reached, the PDCA cycle is repeated.
The CIP strives for continuous improvement of a product or the production process. The idea behind this is never to be satisfied with what has been achieved.
A product or a production process can always be further improved and thus leads to continuously optimized versions in the long run.
In order to reduce or completely avoid waste in the company or on the shopfloor, various activities should be investigated. These include, for example, unnecessary material movement, overproduction and waiting times. With the help of a Smartwatch and the aucobo system, it is easy to see if a machine needs new material. This means that the machine operator does not have to refill the machine at regular intervals, but is sent a direct notification to his watch when necessary. Unnecessary material movements and the associated waste of time are thus optimized, and excessive inventories and overproduction are avoided.
In addition, the simple and fast quality controls with the help of the Smartwatch can accelerate the active search for error sources and improvement potentials.
There are many different ways to implement Lean Manufacturing in a company. No matter which method you choose – it is worth it! The resulting flexibility in production, reduction of waste, optimized productivity and a very high product quality will save you time and money and at the same time you will gain a high competitive advantage on the market.
If you are also interested in implementing Lean Manufacturing, please contact us!