Lean Manufacturing is a philosophy to reduce waste in an organization. One tool to accomplish this is the implementation of a Pull System, which dictates that a product is not made or moved until it is consumed, and the authorization to move or build the product is through a Kanban replenishment signal. The Lean concept to reduce waste and remove non value-added activities can be applied throughout an entire organization and applies to every department. For the purposes of this article, I will focus on manufacturing and inventory.
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Consider this. You touch something hot and you immediately drop it or snap your hand from the heat source. It’s automatic, you do this so instantly that you don’t even think about it. Ladies and gentlemen, this is our wonderful nervous system at work which consists of your brain, spinal cord and nerves which work together so well that it feels instant or real time. It sensed the hot object in your hand and signaled your muscles to let it go subconsciously. Basic studies have tracked this process of “feeling pain” to see that some nerves transmit at over 320 KM/HR (or 200 MPH for my American friends). Quite amazing when you think about it.
One day after a dentist visit my mother (bless her) bought home some fish and chips for lunch while my mouth was still numb from the anesthetic. Two hours later I was in horrible pain because I had burned the top of mouth bad and chewed a hole in my tongue because I couldn’t feel the pain. My nervous system was blocked by the pain killers and I ended up doing some serious damage to my mouth. It occurred to me that this is what happens with manufacturing intelligence with it capturing events (both good and bad), transferring them via integration to a central place for viewing and actions. So as a machine starts producing bad parts, the quicker these events are captured, moved and analyzed the less impact of rework or scrap occurs. This is called the “feedback loop”.
It’s been called the fourth industrial revolution. Smart factories will change the manufacturing landscape around the world, heralding a new age of productivity, efficiency, responsiveness, and product customization. And serious manufacturing people—like CEOs and industry analysts—think the reality is not very far away.
The revolution began a few decades ago, when manufacturers started creating smart manufacturing cells, for the first time merging information technology with manufacturing technology in real-time, albeit on a small scale. Then, as the technology progressed, along came smart production lines, and then smart individual factories.
Six Sigma is a set of statistical tools that act as a lens through which hidden problems can be identified and root causes uncovered, better equipping leadership to think through tough issues. It provides the metrics required to reduce variability in process execution so as to enable on-going improvement in competitiveness and manufacturing and business operations.
Six Sigma not only can benefit your business, but can transform it to becoming more agile and respond faster to change.
While reading articles on Toyota's Production System I came across the term Kanban. Kanban is derived from the combination of two Japanese works, "Kan" meaning visual and "ban" meaning card or board. Kanban is a process relating to lean and just in time production, it is a scheduling system that helps determine what to produce, when to produce and how much to produce. Kanban maintains inventory levels by sending visual signals for production and delivery of new shipment as material is consumed. The signals are tracked through the replenishment cycle and bring extraordinary visibility to suppliers and buyer.
The Kanban system was developed by Toyota after they observed how supermarkets operated in United States. Toyota observed that the supermarkets only stocked items that they believed they could sell, and the customers only took what they needed. Toyota decided to adapt this process in the production system, considering themselves as customers of their suppliers and their suppliers as stores. Toyota would go to its suppliers and only get what it needed, and the suppliers would then restock.