Technology solutions helping manufacturers improve lean functions

Technology solutions helping manufacturers improve lean functions

The economic climate of the past few years has sent many businesses running to adopt lean operations, however nowhere has this been more pronounced than in the manufacturing industry.

As more good-producing companies face the same problems and setbacks, they are turning to lean principles, and many have shared similar technologies to help them get the most out of their new processes, AME Info reports.

According to the media outlet, one of the most widespread hurdles companies have lept over with lean manufacturing has been eliminating speculative production. Of course, long-term thinking is crucial for any business, but recently, the decision to increase production to meet speculative demand has led to unfavorable consequences rather than rewards. Businesses are increasingly using lean as they adopt a strategy that views such actions as excessive, time consuming and costly.

Manufacturers have also used lean processes to cut down on the time that is wasted on idle employees.

"Whether for the previous, current or next step in the manufacturing process, we must remember that for many local SMEs the most valuable – and variable – investment in the supply chain is [workers'] time. Many enterprises forget this as there tends to be an abundance of talent available … " wrote Pratik Kajaria, regional sales supervisor for Zebra Technologies. "Nonetheless, the goal in the modern workplace should be to maximize the utilization and efficiency of operatives first, machines second. "

According to the news source, transportation has been another key issue companies are fighting off with lean principles. Unnecessarily transporting materials, works in progress or finished goods does not improve the end value whatsoever, and with lean thinking, this superfluous activity can be eliminated.

Factors such as poor factory layout or quick attempts to make up costs related to expensive assets can also be detrimental to an organization. This typically leads to performing more work than is necessary, but by adopting lean principles, businesses have been able to simplify the tools they use and even consolidate several processes into one.

Similar to poor transportation systems, having excess inventory in any capacity can keep profit margins low, the news provider stated. Specifically, problems have occurred between operations and other automated tools that have been introduced to a company's supply chain.

This frequently results in overproduction "due to processes with excessively long cycle times – leading in turn to cost and clutter," Kajaria added. "This waste also creates additional waste in the form of increased lead-times, extra floor space requirements and handling, high-interest charges, and again, the associated costs."

Lean has become so influential, that manufacturers are even choosing higher-ups based on their knowledge of the process. According to the Wichita Business Journal, Texas-based Fiber Dynamics recently chose its new president because of the lean expertise he brought to the table. 

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