As the manufacturing industry becomes more and more competitive, your company is likely searching for the most reliable methods to improve production quality and efficiency. Continuous improvement manufacturing systems are one of the major ways production companies can stay ahead of the curve.
One type of continuous improvement manufacturing system that helps improve your company’s productivity is Andon systems. These systems allow managers to become quickly aware of issues that take place in their company’s production process and find solutions that decrease downtime.
As we take a closer look at the processes involved in continuous improvement manufacturing, we’ll discuss what continuous improvement strategies are, why continuous improvement managers are important, and what Andon systems do to facilitate continuous improvement:
What is Continuous Improvement?
Continuous improvement, often related to Lean manufacturing, is the process of developing strategies and techniques that help streamline production and reduce waste. These strategies can be enforced as a formal set of rules or as informal guidelines. Continuous improvement methods are used successfully by thousands of companies across the globe.
There are several approaches that a business can take to achieve continuous improvement, but here are two of the primary methods manufacturing businesses tend to use:
1. Plan-Do-Check-Act (PDCA)
The Plan-Do-Check-Act model implements a cyclical strategy that allows you to track results and improve processes based on the results you get in each cycle.
The first phase, or the planning phase, is where you establish goals that correlate with your expected production output and aim to deliver calculable results. As you cycle back to the planning stage each time you go through the PDCA process, the accuracy of your goals and projected output will increase, thus improving production.
The second phase is to “do,” which means executing the plans you have just made. As you reach certain goals you made in the planning phase, you collect any data you will need to compare your results with your projected outcomes.
In the third phase, or the checking phase, you use the data you have gathered to determine how your goals can be modified to better achieve your intended results.
Finally, in the fourth phase, you act by identifying further opportunities for improvement and setting a standard to achieve in the next cycle of the PDCA process. If you have not achieved a better outcome than you did in the previous cycle, the standard remains the same. If you have reached your goals and improved production, you raise the standard for the next cycle.
2. Root-Cause Analysis (RCA)
Root-Cause Analysis is a method that diagnoses the root causes of issues occurring in your business’s manufacturing process. In order for a cause to be classified as a “root,” negative effects of the issue must be completely and permanently removed once the root cause has been eliminated.
To apply RCA methods to your production process, you thoroughly analyze the issue at hand and any causes that may be contributing to the issue. As you investigate the list of possible culprits of the problem one-by-one, you determine which cause is the root cause. From there, you experiment with solutions that will eliminate the root cause and any negative effects it’s had.
No matter what approach your business takes, it’s important to have someone heading any projects and plans for continuous improvement. That’s where a continuous improvement manager comes in handy.
Why Continuous Improvement Managers Are Essential
The aim of a continuous improvement manager is to improve organizational and manufacturing processes for maximum efficiency. He or she works with continuous improvement manufacturing systems to ensure they are functioning properly according to business needs.
A continuous improvement manager is essential because he or she is specifically responsible for overseeing the innovation and growth of the business’s production system. This means that other managers, supervisors, and employees can focus their attention on their individual job responsibilities without having to take time away from production to plan and implement improvement strategies.
Some of the main tasks continuous improvement managers do are defining continuous improvement programs and plans, implementing those plans, and evaluating the performance of each improvement made. They also ensure processes comply with standards, regulations, and legislation applicable to manufacturing companies.
Additionally, continuous improvement managers are responsible for improving policies and procedures, not just processes related to production. They advise personnel to make sure improvement plans and changes are being implemented company-wide. They are expected to expand and upgrade their knowledge of continuous improvement so that they stay up-to-date on best practices.
Having a continuous improvement manager poses an enormous advantage for any manufacturing company. He or she provides indispensable knowledge of continuous improvement strategies and systems, which can have a sizable impact on company growth and efficiency.
What Andon Systems Do in Continuous Improvement Manufacturing
As part of their job, continuous improvement managers often incorporate manufacturing systems such as Andon into the production process for several reasons. One of those reasons is that Andon systems make it easier for the people on the production floor to communicate with and alert responsible personnel of any issues.
Andon refers to the name of a system that was designed in Japan to alert managers of problems in the manufacturing process. These alerts warned personnel of real-time issues so that steps could be taken to correct them quickly and efficiently.
Andon was originally implemented in the Toyota Production System and allowed workers to cease operations if problems occurred. The operator could tug on what was called an Andon Cord to stop the lines while the problem was being diagnosed.
These original systems were usually structured as stack lights that included green, yellow, and red lights. The green light indicated that operations were normal, the yellow light indicated that a system required attention in the near future, and the red light indicated that urgent attention was required. Some Andon systems still use these light indicators today.
Nowadays, however, Andon systems have been modernized to be activated in several different ways, whether through timing response and resolve times, real-time status dashboards, reports to help identify root causes, and more. Andon systems ensure that quick solutions can be reached without further inhibiting production. Some of the issues Andon systems alert for include malfunctioning equipment, safety hazards, and part shortage.
With these functions, it’s easy to see why Andon systems are implemented so frequently in the manufacturing industry. But they do more than just alert personnel in real time of production issues. They have a variety of other functions that make them worth incorporating into your manufacturing operations.
Here are some other significant advantages of using Andon systems in continuous improvement manufacturing:
- They record valuable data of production processes that continuous improvement managers can analyze and use to improve processes.
- They allow managers to better identify the root-causes of production issues so your business can avoid them in the future.
- They can save your business hundreds of thousands of dollars each year in downtime incidents.
- They can often be customized to fit the needs and parameters of your unique manufacturing business.
- They include real-time dashboards, which allow for immediate response and solutions.
- They support many different types of manufacturing environments.
- They are installed by experienced and professional technical teams who can help you find the most effective ways to implement them.
- They combine IT and OT in order to allow the company to thrive and take on the larger IIoT projects.
For more on the history of Andon systems, see our blog post “A Brief History of Andon Systems.”
VersaCall Andon Systems
VersaCall VT3000 Andon systems are some of the top competitors in continuous improvement manufacturing systems. Our systems’ unique features prove invaluable for improving production output and helping you run your manufacturing business with optimal efficiency.
One major benefit of VersaCall Andon systems is that they are modular and use wireless “mesh” technology, which forms its own interconnected network and ensures greater reliability. Additionally, customers have reported that VersaCall Andon systems on average improved delivery by over 15%, reduced downtime by 10–12%, and increased production time of 8 hours over a one-month period.
Our systems are also fully programmable to your business’s needs, and our support team can work with you to make sure our Andon systems function seamlessly in your production process and update as your processes evolve. Calls for support go immediately to a preset list of personnel via texts, calls, emails and more, guaranteeing faster response times. The acquired data can also be shared with the factory’s other software systems such as EMS.
The most important thing for any manufacturing business is to establish a process that maximizes quality and productivity. As you take the steps to hire a continuous improvement manager and implement continuous improvement manufacturing systems such as VersaCall’s Andon systems, your business can thrive through the evolutions of the manufacturing industry.