May 20, 2015 - You may be thinking about implementing lean manufacturing practices in your facility, or perhaps you have heard about lean manufacturing and want to know more. Whatever the case may be, these tips can help you determine whether your manufacturing process can benefit from lean techniques, and if yes, the best way to go about implementing them.
Sept. 18, 2014 - Manufacturing AUTOMATION caught up with Burlington, Ont.’s Memex Automation while at the International Manufacturing Technology Show in Chicago. Company president David McPhail gave us a demo of MERLIN, Memex's manufacturing operations management system. Take a look.
A client recently asked me whether I thought the integration of lean was a worthwhile investment of time and capital. “That all depends on your objectives,” was my response.
In a highly competitive, globalized economy, manufacturing and fabrication firms no longer have room for errors or defects. We must relentlessly look for ways to meet and exceed customer expectations while growing the bottom line.
Typically, when we talk about Lean, we often look at the programs or processes manufacturers put in place. But Lean is about more than a program—most often, the success of a Lean initiative really rests on people.Manufacturing AUTOMATION sat down with Paul Hager, vice president of Lean Productivity Systems Inc., to discuss the important role human capital plays in a successful Lean strategy and what manufacturers can do to make sure they’re getting the most out of their people. Manufacturing AUTOMATION: Lean has often been referred to as a “human system” rather than a “process system.” What does this mean?Paul Hager: Lean has evolved from the Toyota Production System (TPS) and somewhere in that evolution a few things have been lost in translation. Lean has become more about the tools—value stream mapping, kanban, kaizen events, etc. —and less about the development of people, which is the focus of the Toyota Production System. Toyota uses human capital as the main engine behind TPS, rather than technology. It believes in using the ideas from its workforce to improve its overall processes. It creates a culture where people are identifying problems on a daily basis. When Toyota hires people, the company isn’t necessarily hiring people with previous automotive experience, it’s hiring people that can solve problems. When you hire like that up front, you help develop that human capacity. MA: Why is human capital such an important component of Lean? How does this particularly pertain to a manufacturing setting?PH: Even when Toyota installs a new assembly, they make sure the people doing the work are part of the process. This is different from other automotive companies who typically hire experts that tell the employees how things will be done, and then assume the employees are the problem when the new processes don’t work. A lot of times, these companies think they’ve involved the front-line employees because they’ve asked for input, but it’s usually the engineers and designers that make the final decisions. Toyota involves the front-line people in setting up the line in the first place. That doesn’t mean the company doesn’t use engineers and designers too, it just puts more of an emphasis on the input of the employees. MA: How can companies ensure they’re harnessing this human potential most efficiently?PH: The secret is to develop a problem-solving culture. We believe the best way to do that is by implementing a human development program, designed to develop and standardize the problem-solving processes of your people. Toyota uses the Deming Cycle, which focuses on encouraging a workforce to think in a standard way (Plan, Do, Check, Act). What they’re saying to their people is, “We don’t want you to just do the work, we want you to think about improving the work. And we want you to do that through Plan, Do, Check Act.” It sounds a bit like brainwashing, but it’s not. It’s about getting everyone in your company to think about how they can improve their jobs, and getting them to think about that every single day. It’s more than just implementing a suggestion system—it’s not about getting people to suggest having better food in the cafeteria. It’s about how people can improve their work on a daily basis. MA: What are some easy, initial first steps companies can take to implement Lean by means of their employees?PH: One of the most important first steps is to identify what a problem is. Management needs to understand which problems they want people to identify—Toyota uses the eight wastes (see sidebar). You want to make sure the organization is communicating what types of problems take priority over others (safety, waiting time, costs, etc.).We suggest doing a survey of your people first, and helping the supervisors or group leaders teach the employees how to identify problems. If our primary goal is to cut costs, for example, we want the employees to learn how to identify problems that are associated with excess costs. One of the trickiest things is to help people identify relevant problems with their work—not organizational problems, or world problems, but rather problems in that worker’s area of control. It’s also important to teach them how to turn those problems into opportunities. Sometimes all it takes is just asking a few reflective questions. That can be done by simply asking the supervisors to talk to their people. After that, it’s also important to implement a Just in Time (JIT) approach to problem solving. When a solution is identified, it’s important that people aren’t waiting months and months to see results. The solutions need to be implemented quickly. This creates excitement in the organization, because employees are able to witness change happening. They feel like they’re making a difference, and it sends the message that management deals with problems as they happen. MA: How can harnessing this human capital and employee knowledge help you innovate faster, improve productivity and even improve automation and control systems on the shop floor?PH: When we talk about innovation, we’re not talking about organizational or technological innovation, we’re talking about improvements to the work. Sometimes that leads to technological innovation, but not always. When somebody comes up with a problem that needs to be solved, sometimes the solution is simple—like moving a spool closer to a workstation. In other cases, it might be more complex. Engineers and management can see that a particular problem is impacting the work—if it can somehow be fixed, the cycle time could potentially drop from 25 seconds per part to 10 seconds per part. Sometimes the solution is a technological one; something new has to be created to see a result. Problems create urgency for solutions, whether the problems involve technology, training, hiring, administration or even new markets. Everyday problems create urgency to improve everywhere in an organization. Sometimes the solutions are much bigger or far reaching than the little problems identified by the front line worker or supervisor on the floor, but everyday problem solving creates dissatisfaction with the status quo, and this is why Lean/TPS companies are always innovating. Vanessa Chris is a freelance writer based in Toronto. This article originally appeared in the March/April 2013 issue of Manufacturing AUTOMATION.
There are regular job shops, and there are job shops that go far beyond basic fabrication - ones that design, machine, laser cut, manufacturer and inspect specialty components from start to finish. Watson Engineering, Inc. of Taylor, Mich., is the latter.
May 17, 2010 - Omron Industrial Automation's new Lean Automation Packs deliver a fully integrated, pre-engineered solution for small machines that cut design and installation time by 50% compared to components sourced from separate suppliers, the company says. Each pack builds a complete, compact and scalable high-performance solution to handle either speed control with an AC drive (inverter) or position control with a servo drive and motor. All packs contain Omron’s CP1L micro programmable controller, NV3Q color operator interface terminal, CX-ONE Lite software, sample programs for most commonly used functions, time-saving Quick Start setup guide, S8JX power supply, cables, and components. "All the components in the Lean Automation Packs were selected for simplicity, compactness and cost-to-performance value," explains Kevin O'Connor, Omron Vice President of North American Sales. "This is an industry first, offering a complete machine solution in one box that can be scaled up easily to handle more axes, more I/O and additional communication paths. From a logistics point of view, ordering a single part to provide a complete solution reduces paperwork, ensures all the correct components arrive simultaneously, and decreases the number of suppliers to manage." The Lean Automation Packs were developed in response to machine builder requests for a way to reduce the upfront design through commissioning costs to reclaim more profit from standalone, one-off and low-volume small machine projects. Two types of packs feature pre-engineered components that cover the range of capabilities found in most small machines. Speed Control and Position Control Lean Automation Packs are each available in three sizes to match machine requirements. Omron eliminated the complexity of selecting, ordering, configuring and wiring automation components from multiple suppliers to achieve a lean result.
The following is an excerpt from a new book by Dr. Shigeo Shingo, the co-creator of the Toyota Production System, entitled Kaizen and the Art of Creative Thinking. Reproduced with permission from PCS Press. FINDING THE CAUSE: IN PURSUIT OF PURPOSE It is said that humans are the only animals that act based on reason. In fact, every action throughout our life has purpose; at least, that is how it should be. Due to the force of habit or sheer laziness, we often act without asking ourselves “why” or considering the true purpose of the action. “Why do we eat?” If this question were asked, many would answer, “To gain nutrition, so that we can enjoy a long and healthy life.” The reality may differ. Sometimes we eat just because food is there, or just to enjoy the momentary satisfaction of having food in our mouth. Even worse, we might eat a certain food because we saw it on a TV commercial, and are unwittingly serving the purpose of benefiting a company’s bottom line, instead of our long-term health. For the most part, human action is based on reason. Nevertheless, we often forget our purpose or misunderstand what the ultimate purpose really is. Consciously pursuing the purpose and reasoning behind one’s action is just as important in manufacturing as it is in our daily lives. Indeed, sometimes the solution to a problem is discovered only in the process of realigning our actions with their true purpose. FOUR PURPOSES OF IMPROVEMENT The purposes for factory improvement, for example, may include the following: 1. Increasing productivity 2. Improving quality 3. Cutting time 4. Cutting cost The fulfillment of these purposes can act as a gauge for how well we are improving the factory. Conversely, failing to fulfill these purposes means there are problems that need to be fixed. Thus, if we take the time to refine our actions on the basis of their intended purpose, problems will often disappear. The success of this concept is contingent upon how well we identify and define our purpose. Think of the pursuit of purpose as a three dimensional concept where: • X: represents the clear purpose of goals. • Y: represents single or multiple purposes. If multiple, clarify each. • Z: serves to fulfill the ideal to be reached, such as future state not-stock production. SCRATCHING THE SURFACE Knowing the job and knowing the purpose of the job are two very different things. We may know our job to the letter, but indifference or a lack of awareness as to why the job needs to be done can greatly limit our success. TRUE PURPOSE OF INVESTIGATION I was meeting with the president of N Mining Company in Kita-Kyushu when there was a knock on the door. It was Mr. Y, the mining director, and Mr. K, the accounting director. They had just returned from investigating the feasibility of acquiring a competitor’s mine that was (fiscally speaking) about to go under. I offered to leave while they gave their report, but the president insisted that I stay and listen. “Things are in terrible shape, as we expected,” said Mr. Y. “Their mining has been reckless and the roads and preparation facilities haven’t been maintained well at all.” “Their accounting practices are just as bad,” chimed in Mr. K., the accounting director. “There are many outstanding ac- counts; payables that haven’t been paid off and receivables that haven’t been collected. It’s completely unorganized.” Seemingly finished with their report, the president, who had been almost silent, opened his mouth. “Is that all?” “Well . . . yes,” replied Mr. Y, reluctantly. The president cocked an eyebrow at me, “As we all know, R Mining Company is on the verge of bankruptcy. Isn’t it expected that their operations would be in dire straits? “I didn’t send you to confirm the obvious. I sent you to discover whether there’s still any potential left in the mine. Of course their operations are in shambles! But it’s possible there’s hope buried somewhere underneath, and I expected you to dig a little to find it!” This episode taught me the importance of extending our thoughts beyond the job and onto the true purpose of our work, especially if it is not obvious from the given instructions. Confirming the development potential of the mine prior to acquisition was a crucial factor in the decision for N Mining to buy. Consequently, ascertaining this information was integral in the company’s investigational purpose. Although not specifically instructed to do so, had the two men considered this as their purpose upon their visit, perhaps they would have returned with information that could have served the growth of their company.
Ontario is supporting training programs that will help manufacturers across the province become more efficient and better compete — at home and abroad. The Excellence in Manufacturing Consortium (EMC) is expanding its highly successful Lean Manufacturing Training Program, adding a minimum of 50 training sessions to benefit an additional 850 participants across Ontario. The province will contribute $300,000 to the training program on top of its $500,000 June 2008 investment. Started in 2007, the program helps manufacturers become more efficient and competitive by teaching workers lean manufacturing methods. Participating companies benefit from less waste, better workflow, and smoother equipment changeovers. Ontario is investing in this project again under the Communities in Transition (CiT) initiative. Previous reported in PEM magazine.
Grimsby, Ont.-based RMT Robotics, a robotics manufacturer and integrator in the field of materials handling automation, has secured a contract to provide their "category-defining" intelligent Automated Guided Vehicle (i-AGV), ADAM (watch ADAM in action), for seamless work in process materials delivery in Otis Technology's Lyons Falls, N.Y., manufacturing facility."Otis Technology manufactures the advanced gun care systems, which are widely regarded by experts as the most advanced gun cleaning system in the world. As a major supplier of gun cleaning equipment to the US Army, Air force, Marine Corps, Navy and Special Ops Units, Otis has experienced exponential growth in sales, which in turn has resulted in an increase in production.Having truly embraced the Lean manufacturing philosophy, Otis plans on utilizing ADAMs to streamline their parts delivery process and optimizing the assembly process to achieve just-in-time delivery of parts. Otis operations director Mike York says, "New technology, like RMT's ADAM will continue to play a key role in Otis Technology's success, growth and sustainability." ""The Otis application is ideal for the ADAM platform as their factory operation can take full advantage of ADAM's 'random origin to random destination' nature, navigating around obstacles that are expected and unexpected," says Bill Torrens, vice-president of sales and marketing for RMT Robotics. He goes on to say, "Lean manufacturing is a foundation philosophy for Otis and key to their future, so we at RMT are proud that ADAM was selected to be such an integral part of Otis' strategy for growth and success."www.rmtrobotics.comwww.adam-i-agv.comwww.otisgun.com
One of the most commonly overlooked precepts of lean manufacturing is the principle of collaboration. It never ceases to amaze us in our consulting and coaching roles with clients undergoing a transformation to lean is how they overlook the importance of establishing collaborative relationships within and across their organizations and both up and downstream from their organizations. Collaboration is merely assumed, not addressed as key to their lean journey. Yet without the collaborative gene, the lean transformation journey deteriorates to nothing more than a set of tools and methods providing mediocre results at best and very little likelihood of sustaining even those small gains. The reason why collaboration is so important lies in the fundamentals of "lean" itself.Lean is all about people. Our objective is to create a sustainable culture of continuous improvement. This is only doable if we can harness the hearts and minds of our associates, no matter where they reside in our organization. Only by creating an environment that encourages collaboration will we ever enlist the sum of all of the creative genius that lies within our organization. Pulling this together is key to greatness. It is the key to finding innovative solutions to productivity challenges and then taking them to even greater improvements in our ongoing journey of continuous improvement.So why is collaboration so important? Let's look at our operations from a number of perspectives. First, at the cell level we are looking to capture the ongoing day-by-day improvements that can be generated by an involved and committed workforce. Such team dynamics only exist where we have a collaborative, no-blame environment. Next, consider the individual value streams within our organizations. Here we look to overcome the traditional boundaries of departments, career paths, functional disciplines and internal empires to create a harmonious, focused team effort to continuously improve our productivity, quality, and overall customer service. Without the ability to collaborate, tearing down the traditional walls separating our in-bred departmentalized thinking is impossible.From the corporate strategic level, taking our lean initiatives outside our organization by looking both upstream at our supply chain and downstream via our customers, requires collaboration. To get to this stage takes time, perseverance and effort. But the rewards for this level of collaboration are huge. Yet companies continue to ignore this opportunity.Collaboration in its purest form is a driver of innovation. Great ideas are generated by people. Even greater ideas come from the sharing of ideas. Breakthrough thinking does not happen in isolation. Consider what might be accomplished in your organization if you could get your associates to think and act collaboratively. Such power is not easily achieved and almost impossible for competitors to emulate. Just imagine the magnitude of results that are available to those who can collaborate internally and externally to their organization. We are talking about innovative improvements in product development, production and operational processes and systems, and leveraging technology to further increase competitiveness. This truly becomes a powerful attribute that will have sustainable competitive advantages over its more traditional rivals.As described by Robert Porter Lynch, "In a fast-paced, rapidly changing world, the most successful and sustainable source of competitive advantage is through collaborative innovation."Since a "lean" transformation is a top-down driven process, it is critical that the collaborative gene reside in the organization's leadership DNA. Because as the leadership goes, so does the rest of the organization. Therefore, we challenge every organizational leader to explore and adopt for their organization "best practices" in collaboration."Coming together is a beginning, keeping together is progress, working together is success." - Henry FordGary Loblick, P. Eng., MBA, is president of The Winslow Group, a networked organization of industry professionals experienced in the implementation of productivity improvement processes.
Dearborn, Mich. – The Society of Manufacturing Engineers (SME) has launched the Lean Registry, a free community connection and collaboration space for Lean practitioners.Partnering with the Association for Manufacturing Excellence (AME) and the Shingo Prize for Excellence in Manufacturing, the SME says it conceived of the registry in 2005 when creating its Lean certification program.The Lean Registry allows users to post needs/expertise directly to their profile, create virtual groups and make safe connections more easily. Registrants can easily search through shared profiles to find who might match a specific need they have and then send an invitation to connect. Users control if or when to accept a connection and/or share contact information.To join the Lean Registry go to http://SMEConnection.leveragesoftware.com.
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