It’s hardly a new revelation to learn that efficient communication sits at the heart of all successful business environments. However, there’s perhaps no workplace that is affected by communication quite like the manufacturing production floor.
Lean manufacturing goals rely heavily on efficient communication. Here’s all you need to know about the whats, whys, and hows of lean manufacturing through the use of advanced technologies.
What is Lean Manufacturing?
The term lean manufacturing is one that originates from Japan and it describes a systematic concept that focuses on waste reduction within the production line, primarily on the production floor, without compromising the company’s output.
It is an approach that was built upon the ideologies first used by Toyota in the 1950s, incorporating a variety of principles including Kaizen in the pursuit of perfection. The ultimate aim is to remove any resources or processes that do not add value for the customer.
Why TIME is The Biggest Contribution to Waste
Lean manufacturing identifies eight (seven of which were proposed by the original Toyota strategy) instances of waste. They revolve around transportation, inventory, waiting times, motion of people and equipment, overproduction, over processes, product defects, and unused talent.
With all of these features in mind, it’s clear that one business cliché rings true: time is money.
If the production floor is guilty of wasting time, virtually all eight sources of waste will be worsened. With this in mind, utilizing any asset that can reduce the amount of time wasted in the working arena can only have a positive influence on the overall production rates.
How Modern Communication Systems Encourage Increased Efficiency
One of the key features of the Toyota model, which is still used in modern lean manufacturing, is the use of Andons. The term Andon is another that comes from Japan and comes from the iconic paper lights. As far as production is concerned, it is built upon the idea of using lights to pass on information quickly and efficiently.
The three-color lighting system ultimately enables non-managerial production staff to use their initiative and authority to alert colleagues of issues and even stop production on a temporary basis when a problem surfaces. The three color system is very simple, working on the classic traffic light model:
- Green – production is running smoothly
- Yellow – an issue has been identified and needs adjustments soon
- Red – a problem has been identified and needs fixing before production resumes
The passing of information through the lighting system, which can be supported by audio notifications, and other data displayed on andon visual boards, allows for far quicker response times. This allows issues within the production line to be fixed far more quickly while key personnel will not miss the data. Moreover, the fact that the signals are universally recognized avoids time wasted on asking whether an issue can wait.
How Andon Analysis Optimizes Production Processes
The use of Andon systems has evolved at a rapid rate over the years, which runs parallel to the increased use of automated technology in business as a whole. Nowadays, real-time reporting and machine learning allow for a level of analysis that previously wasn’t possible. Shortcomings can be identified and improved with stunning outcomes.
Andon analysis can point employers and senior staff towards better wireless communication systems to encourage speed and consistency in all situations. It can extend to staff training in the technologies to further reduce any threat of wasted time or resources due to missed faults.
Furthermore, Andon analysis and artificial intelligence can enable machines to identify problems autonomously before sending the necessary warning signs to the right people. This takes production to a whole new level, especially when supported by preventative maintenance tasks that are aimed to maximize lifespans while simultaneously minimizing downtime.
How Improved Communication Supports Lean Manufacturing Goals
Andons aren’t the only key aspect of lean manufacturing. Companies can also use Heijunka, Kanban, Jidoka, 5S, Cycle Time, and Poka-Yoke to their advantage. All of these features support the idea of improved communication, and this will inevitably enhance the hopes of meeting those lean manufacturing goals.
After all, lean manufacturing is built upon the idea of efficient teamwork and efficient processes. Wasted time is the ultimate production killer, but ensuring that all members of the team are on the same page can stop this from becoming a major issue. When supported by the right equipment, which occurs as a byproduct of choosing lean manufacturing, the business won’t go far wrong.
When production reaches optimized efficiency through great communication and lean manufacturing, both expenditure and revenue will see positive results.