Lean Manufacturing Through Factory Floor Innovation

Published: 15th July 2005
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Taking the concepts of the Toyota System and enhancing them with today's information systems technology has been the key to allow some manufacturers to unlock the door that leads to a short-cut in process improvement projects. They are rethinking the good ideas of lean manufacturing and are using today's factory floor information tools to quickly and easily improve factory floor performance, customer responsiveness and their bottom line.

Process improvement through a leaner approach and finite scheduling for the factory floor can be demonstrated in a number of ways:
Minimize cycle time
Minimize inventory
Meet customer expectations in quality and delivery
Look for ways to improve changeover
Empower the workers
Create a culture for continuous improvement

Creating a "culture" for continuous improvement can be realized through another lean concept' the use of visual aids. By making the factory floor activity visible through the use of the Manufacturing Execution System (MES), and measuring the flow times of parts on a continuous basis, the factory has a benchmark from which to identify areas that need improvement and the system to demonstrate those improvements.

For example, of the factories that are moving to lean manufacturing, how many have put a machine monitoring equipment in place to measure the flow time of a part? If there is a system that allows this basic metric, how many can tell the percentage of time that parts are being "value-added" verses the waste (or non value-added) time? Time is wasted during a downtime occurrence, waiting for a tool/die/mold or other necessary piece of equipment. Other examples of waste are times spent waiting for a quality check or unnecessary time in changeover/set-up.

With information systems for factory floor data collection, the analysis of the factory floor processes and the flow of parts, sometimes referred to as a "current state map", can be made visible. If your company is going take action to improve the process then why not make the process flow visible and available all day, everyday. If improvement is truly continuous, then why make the evaluation of the flow episodic.


So why not think creatively from the get-go and put a factory floor information system in place that can help you and your company move forward with Lean concepts of identifying problems, the flow of parts, and measure change over times? Just because Toyota did not use electronic information systems, does not make it wrong to install them on the floor. To the contrary, it is the American Manufacturer that has the opportunity to improve on these Lean concepts with information systems that can be married into a Lean process improvement program.

1. Make sure the entire factory floor is involved with the system and that they are empowered to identify problem/alert situations.

2. Allow the system to provide a JIT production approach, which is dynamic and can be reactive to customer and floor demands.

3. Find a way to record changeover times tracked to specific assets and people.

4. Identify the opportunities for process improvement and keep a record of it.

5. Allow the floor personnel access to better communications like email where appropriate.

6. Improve the operator's access to data by providing electronic "paperless" display of current, as well as, newer style electronic image and video documents.

7. Make the quality checks part of the process and capture it electronically so alert conditions of non-conformance conditions can be captured in real-time.

Implementation of Lean Manufacturing through a factory floor system can save time and money and put you in the driver seat towards more profitable production.

Think creatively. Use information tools creatively. Use the information tools that are designed to improve the process.


About Factivity Inc.:


Since 1984, Factivity has been a leader in the development, implementation, and support of software products for manufacturing companies. MDSS sells products that help manufacturers better manage inventory, shrink cycle time, and increase productivity. The current focus of Factivity is a Manufacturing Execution System (MES) with modules for time and attendance, shop floor management, machine monitoring, and more.


For more information, visit FACTIVITY-manufacturing shop floor software company (


www.factivity.com)

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