Business Automation and Software Blog

Using Technology to Implement New Lean Manufacturing Trends

Posted by Robert Baran on Wed, Jan 23, 2019 @ 11:00 AM

Debuted in 1913 by Henry Ford and improved on by a team at Toyota in the 1930s, lean practice has made a big impact on the automotive world by minimizing waste, teaching companies to create more value with fewer resources.

It’s not just car manufacturing that can benefit from lean, though. Lean’s focus on continuous improvement and doing more with less resonates with every facet of business, from logistics to retail, construction to government, and yes, especially manufacturing.

A Place for Technology

Technology is a big enabler for lean manufacturing practices. Automation can replace some manual labor, saves time, and frees up employees to do more human-oriented tasks, such as analytics and problem-solving, while the machines do machine-oriented tasks. Digitizing manufacturing is a big trend through 2019 and into 2020, as many manufacturing companies are dramatically increasing their digitization and expect to be ranked as digitally advanced by 2020. These same companies are putting their money where their mouth is, committing around five percent of revenues toward that connectivity.

Take a look at some of the ways others are digitizing for lean practices in 2019. How many are you implementing in your manufacturing operations?

Automation: The Backbone of Lean

Automation has long been the backbone of lean manufacturing. Many fear that automation will kill manufacturing jobs, and they’re not entirely wrong. Artificial intelligence (AI) enabled automation could eliminate up to 9 percent of U.S. jobs. However, AI automation also creates other job opportunities that support this new automation economy, from those who can service the equipment to those who will use the data produced by automation to continue improving business and manufacturing processes.

Thus, automation supports lean manufacturing by allowing companies to run production longer, faster, and with fewer errors than by human power, saving both time and overhead.

Connected Equipment with IoT

With the advent and popularity of the Internet of Things (IoT) comes the possibility of connected equipment that can exchange data with other machines and networks based on activities, sensors, and analytical insights. In fact, Boston Consulting Group predicts that by 2020, half of the $267B companies will spend on IoT products, technologies, and services will be driven by industries such as manufacturing.

Using IoT, which is geared toward efficiency, reliability, and availability, has ushered in a whole new way of converting raw materials into marketable products. Plus, machines will significantly reduce the margin of error. They don’t need breaks, sick days, or training, so they’re a reliable and cost-effective efficiency improvement. While the capital investment up front might seem daunting, the long-term reductions in operational expenses are worth it. Some of the uses for IoT in manufacturing include:

  • Tracking tools and fixtures
  • Work-in-progress tracking
  • Process automation

Machine Learning Makes Predictions

We’ve already seen how technology can bring down labor costs, reduce product issues, and increase production. Machine learning then takes the data collected by your automated and connected IoT devices and uses that to monitor and predict issues in your manufacturing process. Imagine knowing a machine will need service before it breaks down, based on specific histories of issues on that machine. Other systems read information and find ways to optimize a machine’s productivity, emissions, or other issues even better than a human could.

Connect and Go Lean with PositiveVision

Lean manufacturing with all these technological aspects might feel intimidating, but you don’t have to do it alone. The right software consultant can ensure that you have the best solutions in place to prepare for the technologies of lean manufacturing. PositiveVision has been helping companies implement the right software for more than 15 years. If you’re going lean in 2019, give PositiveVision a call. We can help.

Topics: lean manufacturing