Monday, April 26, 2010

Lean Manufacturing through factory floor innovation

Taking the concept of the Toyota System and enhancing them with information systems technology today is the key to allow some manufacturers to unlock the door that leads into a short-cut the process improvement projects. They are rethinking the good ideas of lean manufacturing and use of factory floor is now the tools of information quickly and easily improves factory floor performance, customer responsiveness and their bottom line.

Method of improvement by a leaner approach and finite scheduling for factory floors showed a number of ways:
  • Reduce cycle time
  • Reduce inventory
  • Meet customer expectations on quality and delivery
  • Find ways to improve changeover
  • Empower workers
  • Create a culture for continuous improvement
Creating a culture for continuous improvement is realized through another lean the use of visual aids. By making the factory floor activity visible through the use of Manufacturing Execution System (MES), and measuring the flow times of parts on a continuous basis, the factory has a benchmark from which to identify areas that need improvement and the system to show improvement.

For example, in factories to switch to lean manufacturing, how many have put a machine monitoring equipment in place to measure the flow time of a part? If there is a system that allows the primary metric, how many can say the percentage of time that parts are "value-added" verse the waste (or value-added) time? Time is wasted in a downtime event, waiting for a tool / killer / mold or other necessary pieces of equipment. Other examples of waste of time spent waiting for a quality check or unnecessary time in changeover / setup.

By information systems for factory floor data collection, analysis of the factory floor processes and the flow of parts, sometimes referred to as a "current state map", can be made visible. If your company is going to take action to improve the process then why not make the process flow visible and available all day, every day. If the improvement is truly continuous, then why make the diagnosis of episodic flow.

So why not think creatively from the get-go and put on a factory floor information system in place that will help you and your company move forward with Lean concepts of identifying problems, the flow of parts, and the proposed changes over time? Just because Toyota did not use the electronic information system, will not make it wrong to install them on the floor. To the contrary, it is the American Manufacturer that the opportunity to improve these Lean concepts in information systems who may have married into a Lean process improvement program.
  1. Make sure the entire floor of the factory is related to the system and that they are empowered to identify problem / alert situations.
  2. Allow the system to provide a JIT production approach, which is dynamic and can be reactive to customer needs and floors.
  3. Find a way to record changeover times tracked to specific assets and people.
  4. Identify opportunities for process improvement and keep a record of it.
  5. Allow the floor to access the staff to better communication like email where appropriate.
  6. Improve operator access to data by providing electronic "paperless" display of current, as well as, newer style electronic image and video documents.
  7. Perform quality checks of the process and get it electronically to alert conditions of non-conformance conditions can be captured in real time.
Implementation of Lean Manufacturing through a factory floor system can save time and money and put you in the driver's seat to more profitable production.
Use information tools creatively. Use information tools that are designed to improve the process.

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