What is lean manufacturing? 7 principles for manufacturers

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As the UK is the ninth largest manufacturing nation in the world, it’s a highly competitive sector, leading manufacturers to take every step available to cut costs.

Lean Manufacturing, also known as Lean Production, Six Sigma or Kaizen, is about optimizing the manufacturing process.

In concrete terms, this means more efficiency, faster processes and greater consistency as well as production with greater precision. While innovative, it is a concept that has existed for over a century, being prominently adopted in automobile production by Henry Ford in the United States and then widely used in Japanese manufacturing.

While they can bring a number of benefits, understanding the seven key principles behind the philosophy is crucial for manufacturers to truly understand and apply lean manufacturing processes.

1) Waste disposal

Reducing waste is critical to reducing the environmental impact of the manufacturing process and enabling cost savings. Visibility of where this can be achieved is made possible through the use of 3D simulation software.

For example, by simulating a planned component processing system, manufacturers can identify where devices can be removed from the real device without impacting performance.

2) Appreciation of the human element

In lean manufacturing, the focus is just as much on the employees as the machines. It is critical for leaders to ensure that employees are not overworked, are held accountable for successes and failures, and have a clear view of what their roles are accomplishing. The best technology is useless if employees are undervalued and valued.

Manufacturers can again use 3D simulation software in such environments to ensure employee safety, e.g. B. to accommodate social distancing during the COVID-19 pandemic.

3) Striving for perfection

The continuous pursuit of improvement in the manufacturing process also means a continuous pursuit of perfection, and places improvement at the heart of corporate culture. Lean manufacturing is about constant evolution and always avoiding complacency. Organizations can use 3D simulation software to continuously refine improvements before applying them in the real world.

4) Value stream mapping

The value stream describes how a product is created in the plant, or in other words, the map that traces the raw material on its way to the end product. By laying out this map with arrows showing each process, manufacturers can likely see where improvements can be made. This flow can be visualized using 3D simulation software.

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5) Reducing and avoiding errors

Errors result in wasted materials, time and money, and thus work directly against the idea of ​​lean manufacturing. While it is true that not all errors can be avoided, reducing them as much as possible is key to ensuring efficiency.

One way to achieve this is to integrate robotics into the production line and by using a robot simulation to refine the process, spot potential errors before they occur in the real world.

6) Recognize impairment

The elements that drive value in the manufacturing process are lead times, price points, color, material properties and material used, functional and geometric requirements of the product, and part repeatability, accuracy, and precision. Simulation software can help manufacturers identify if there are additional process steps or unnecessary features that affect this value.

7) Find bugs automatically

In the event that errors cannot be prevented, processes should be in place to achieve automatic detection. This could include the identification and removal of inaccurate material. For example, if ferrous metal contamination ruins the product, installing powerful magnets along the line will automatically find defects, while smart sensors or cameras could be installed to also achieve the same effect.

Send manufacturing in new directions

Following these seven principles will not only enable manufacturers to achieve higher levels of efficiency and optimization, but also open up new possibilities in the manufacturing process. One of them is just-in-time production. With a culture around lean processes, manufacturers are better able to produce goods based solely on demand, helping to reduce the capital and money required for production. While this means customers expect longer lead times as production only occurs after an order is placed, the potential for wasted product can be eliminated.

Ultimately, Lean Manufacturing enables a highly efficient, environmentally friendly and competitive manufacturing process using new technologies such as automation and simulation. With this, manufacturers are better placed to design a factory of the future, aligned with the digitized ideals of Industry 4.0, and they are also in a much stronger position to adapt to a rapidly changing industry.

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