Lean manufacturing is a production process that is based on the concept of maximizing productivity while minimizing waste within manufacturing. During the course of this process, actions are taken to further improve production. According to the Lean principle, anything that does not add value to a product that customers are willing to pay for is considered waste.
Lean Production methodology, as it is also called, is based on specific manufacturing principles that have influenced manufacturing systems across the world. Today, LEAN is adopted by the vast majority of manufacturing companies, and the solution brings a lot of benefits. Simply put, it is essentially a set of different methodologies and best practices that are used to improve a factory’s efficiency in all aspects of and around production. Lean largely takes from TPM (Total Productive Maintenance), but any method that aims at the systematic improvement of efficiency is considered to be part of Lean Manufacturing.
First concepts of Lean Production
The first person to truly integrate the entire manufacturing process was Henry Ford. Ford grouped the stages of production in sequence, using special-purpose machines and go/no-go gauges. This was all done to produce and assemble the components that went into a vehicle in a matter of minutes, thus delivering perfectly matched parts directly to the production line.
At this point in history, it was considered a truly revolutionary break with the shop floor practices of the American system, which consisted of general-purpose machines grouped by the process. They formed components that went into finished products after several fittings at the subassembly and final assembly stages.
Modern lean manufacturing approaches are centered on maximizing value for the customer by eliminating waste and optimizing the flow of value. This is achieved through a focus on continuous improvement, collaboration, and adaptability to changing customer needs and market conditions. Some key tools and techniques used in modern lean manufacturing include value stream mapping, flow analysis, and the use of visual management systems to help identify and eliminate waste and improve efficiency. Modern lean manufacturing principles that help to achieve these objectives are:
- Customer focus: Prioritize the needs of the customer and strive to continuously improve the customer experience.
- Continuous improvement: Continuously identify and eliminate waste and inefficiencies in processes to improve efficiency and quality.
- Value stream analysis: Analyze the entire value stream to identify opportunities for improvement and eliminate waste.
- Flow: Work to create a continuous flow of value to the customer, rather than starting and stopping work in batches.
- Pull: Allow customers to “pull” work through the system, rather than pushing work through the system.
- Standardization: Establish standard processes and procedures to ensure consistent quality and efficiency.
- Leadership: Foster a culture of continuous improvement and empower employees to identify and solve problems.
- Collaboration: Encourage teamwork and collaboration across departments and functions to optimize the value stream.
- Adaptability: Be flexible and open to change in order to respond to changing customer needs and market conditions.
Examples of Lean Manufacturing in real life
One of the most recognizable concepts connected with lean manufacturing is Six Sigma. It emphasizes the removal of wasteful steps in the production process and taking only those that are valuable. The concept of the Six Sigma method leads to high quality and customer satisfaction in manufacturing. In many aspects, Six Sigma is a broader process that easily adapts to the application of manufacturing processes, but it also serves as a big picture approach to strategy in business through the use of statistical models. When applied to manufacturing, Six Sigma is an evaluation process utilized to identify vulnerabilities and improve the overall process.
The automotive manufacturer, Toyota, has also played a leading role in implementing lean manufacturing processes. Toyota Production System (TPS), also called The Toyota Way, developed all of its lean techniques to gain a competitive advantage – and in doing so, transformed itself from an underdog to a market leader. Nowadays, Lean Manufacturing is virtually known all over the world and is used in numerous organizations. However, Toyota continues to be the most prevalent example in explaining Lean. In essence, Toyota was the first to combine, develop, and implement the loose principles of the methodology that is now known as Lean.
Other well-known ways to support Lean include the Kaizen philosophy, TPM, and SMED. Kaizen refers to the daily improvement of processes by involving every employee of the company. It is one of the pillars of improving a company through Lean Manufacturing. TPM and SMED refer to the functioning of machines – the former through proper maintenance of machines and the latter through reducing changeover times.
Companies implementing Lean manufacturing often have Lean specialists on board that are able to introduce their practices slowly but surely in the company’s DNA. This must be managed well in order to prevent shocks to the line which can potentially disrupt the workflow itself, leading to delays and issues with the manufacturing line.
Change Management is a big part of implementing Lean methodologies. However, organizational change can be a difficult concept. That is, metamorphosis leads to confusion as different types of change are mixed.
ANT’s leading solutions in Lean Manufacturing
The philosophy and theory associated with Lean Manufacturing alone are important, but it is not sufficient. You also need the right tools that the solutions implemented by ANT help to successfully execute Lean in your company. ANT products are designed for a manufacturing process compatible with the Lean Manufacturing philosophy. ANT’s Smart Factory solutions perfectly support and enhance many of the aforementioned Lean methodology benefits.
Our tools provide solutions to Lean-driven needs such as automated data collection and analysis. They focus on step-by-step performance improvement, guiding operators through processes and increasing awareness of their immediate environment and workstation, pinpointing areas for improvement. At the same time, ANT solutions are an ideal tool to support the work of managers, allowing for an overview of the factory. It shows real and precise data along with its drill-down analysis. In addition, our Overall Equipment Effectiveness Performance Monitoring enables faster production reporting with monitoring of production in real-time. This, in turn, leads to higher production volume on account of faster production launch and maintenance reaction time.
Our experience is the Lean Manufacturing key
ANT is also a center of product excellence. By implementing our systems throughout different industries, we’re gathering best practices, improving our tools further, and developing new ones. In other words, our experience in transforming production lines into prime examples of lean manufacturing speaks for itself.
Our experience makes us better equipped to predict and deal with any issues that may crop up during the implementation period. We are then able to offer your team advice on how to best inform staff of changes to the more traditional manufacturing methodologies.
The results of implementing ANT Solutions can be seen almost immediately. The awareness of the current state of machines at any time and ready-made analysis allows for a rapid introduction of changes and improvements that eliminate the most common causes of lowering the OEE of machines.
Don’t hesitate to get in touch with us if you would like more information about how ANT can help your company switch over to Lean Manufacturing.