Roadmap towards lean manufacturing in the digital age

Amir Shingray
Amir Shingray
October 22, 2020 | Enterprise

Lean manufacturing is more relevant today than it was a few years ago. The fourth industrial revolution or industry 4.0 uses digital technologies to improve the production flow (digital transformation) and as we all know, digital transformation and lean principles provide the same benefits; cost savings, eliminating waste and increasing value and productivity. This blog is going to show you the roadmap to implement lean manufacturing in the digital age.

The Phases of Lean in the Digital Age

Successful implementation of lean principles in industry 4.0 requires a structured approach. This approach may include the following three phases.

Innovate

The first phase of implementing lean manufacturing in the digital age requires innovation and to innovate; you need to determine your business needs and challenges. You must also determine the areas that can use improvement and the magnitude of support your existing digital technologies can provide for lean manufacturing. You'll have to develop a comprehensive assessment tool to identify improvement priorities and the current implementation stage. You also need to train a few key team members to use state of the art digital technologies used for implementing lean in the digital age. There are workshops where you can experience these digital technologies and learn how to improve your business processes. Here are a few innovations that can help you implement lean more efficiently in the digital age.

  • Using digital technologies to connect smart devices throughout the production system for easily sharing information and data.
  • Leveraging augmented-reality (AR) and cloud technology for SOP compliance and improving operators' productivity.
  • Using digital performance boards and real-time KPIs for accelerating response time and reducing cycle times.
  • Integrating industrial 3D printing technology for in-house production of spare parts for the production system.

Pilot

During the second phase, you need to come up with a pilot plan to apply the insights you gained during the first phase. Instead of full-scale deployment, it's best to test the waters first, choose a specific part of the production system and deploy a pilot there. The pilot must be a minimum viable solution that you can improve after gaining insights about its performance. This initial pilot allows you to showcase the opportunities for value creation (an integral part of lean principles) and validate your approach. Once the pilot starts performing optimally, you can deploy other enablers of lean in the digital age.

Scale

In the final phase, you carry out the full-scale deployment of digital technology and solutions in the production system that you tested and refined during the second phase. Since lean manufacturing focus on eliminating waste, the rollout should be carried out in a logical sequence that assures deployment and integration of the solutions without disrupting the production system. Constant tracking is a must during the final phase.

Benefits of Using Digital Technologies for Lean Manufacturing

Flexibility

Every manufacturer wants flexible operations that allow them to use the same production system to manufacture multiple products, but without digital transformation, this isn't possible, at least not efficiently. Without digital technologies, you'd have to perform manual and time-consuming changeovers, which infringe upon the values of lean principles. Digital manufacturing, however, allows you to eliminate activities that don't add any value from the changeover and significantly reduce the change over time, providing unmatched flexibility. Industry 4.0 digital technologies like sensors and automation solutions can automatically distinguish different products that you make, load the required program, and line-up the tools without any human intervention. This frees up your team members to focus on tasks that add value for you and your customers.

Productivity

Equipment failure or breakdown can happen at any time and it reduces productivity and leads to high inventory levels. In a digital manufacturing environment where preventative or autonomous maintenance is implemented, the overall equipment effectiveness (OEE) is high, and equipment failure chances are low. In small factory settings, operators are responsible for carrying out minor DIY maintenance, which significantly reduces the equipment downtime. Industry 4.0, however, uses sensors to collect data and leverages machine learning techniques and advanced analytics algorithms to analyze that data. The data helps predict potential breakdowns before they occur and allows the stakeholders to carry out timely repairs. As a result, the company can save a significant amount of time and resources. Mobile-friendly solutions allow the maintenance team to access necessary information from remote locations, promoting continuous improvement and increasing the effectiveness of the implemented digital solutions.

Speed

Traditional lean manufacturing tools may be ineffective for increasing the number of product variants while reducing batch sizes. Manufacturers can remedy that ineffectiveness by leveraging digital technologies. Certain algorithms can help overcome challenges of product and production management in real-time. Furthermore, manufacturers can also accelerate and enhance continuous improvement efforts with real-time data. Data can also help you reduce response and reaction time if you have real-time monitoring in place.

Quality

Data and analytics can help manufacturers carry out self-inspections, leading to zero defects as it identifies the root cause of errors. Digital technologies of industry 4.0 provide unmatched tracking capabilities and reliable context data, which can significantly increase your products' quality. 

Safety

One of the most important KPIs in lean manufacturing is safety. Digital technologies allow you to identify risk areas or areas for improvement by tracking near misses and incidents. Low-cost wireless sensors, an integral device in a smart factory, can help increase your factory's safety. You can even use virtual reality (VR) to train workers and prevent accidents that affect productivity.

Infowise process automation

Infowise and Lean in the Digital Age

Infowise has been providing automated business solutions for almost two decades and these solutions are more than capable of supporting lean in the digital age. The solutions are easy to deploy; they require minimal training and can be customized and up-scaled according to your business needs. With Infowise, you can create your own customized solutions without writing a single line of code all through your web browser. You can automate multiple business processes, including task assignment, list generation, form creation, alerts, calendars, etc. To learn more about our business processes and workflow automation solutions, download the free trial or request a free demo.

 

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