The rapid shift toward technology for manufacturers is a positive one. According to the latest surveys; Manufacturing technology orders made year-over-year gains in April according to the latest U.S. Manufacturing Technology Orders report from AMT – The Association For Manufacturing Technology. It was also the first month that orders showed gains year to date for 2017. Technology and the shift toward lean manufacturing is helping to fuel this movement.
Lean manufacturing technologies are continuing to help companies to speed up processes to bring products to market, reducing costs and keeping customers happy. In this article, we’ll share how technology investments can help increase production and enhance your lean manufacturing strategy.
Why lean production?
To create a seamless flow of people, material and information you need to move to lean factory, or lean-oriented production layout with the use of lean manufacturing technologies. Well-planned and designed lean factories prevent the build-up of inventory and excess equipment. Lean layouts enable visual management. Lean production facilities provide a safe, clean environment to expedite work, regardless of the finished goods being produced. Lean environments can more positive impacts beyond production, the benefits on workforce morale can be endless. And it’s all about effective use of time. A well-designed layout with the use of technology will contribute to the ease of maintaining a safe and effective workplace. And, if it’s easier to maintain, it will be maintained!
Why is software so integral in the Lean manufacturing strategy?
The cloud makes software more central, and that opens new production opportunities for our companies. The digitization of everything is potentially very good for U.S. manufacturing. There is no way to avoid the fact that software is everywhere and in everything. The fact remains that most of the IT technologies revolutionizing manufacturing and advanced industries today reflect American competencies, ranging from increasingly powerful visualization software; computer assisted design (CAD), 3-D printing, and rapid prototyping tools; and key forms of automation and machine learning to the cloud, the Internet of things (IoT), and data analytics. Most notably, the fact that software underlies all of these technologies and that eight of the largest 10 global software companies are American suggests that current trends play heavily to America’s strengths. “You need to have a software culture now [to be a manufacturer].
Regardless of the location and goals, your lean factory team must consider important operational and policy issues. They must establish and follow concepts that are relevant to your situation. And they must use the right implementation tools. Implementing the right lean manufacturing technologies is key to success.
It should be clear by now that additive manufacturing technology, or 3D printing, has become a more accepted part of manufacturing processes.
The number of companies that are using it and the innovations to additive manufacturing technology itself have increased dramatically in the last few years. Issues like cost quality still keep additive manufacturing technology from scaling to true mass production levels, but advancements in the machines, materials and network systems are ensuring that it has a definite place in next-gen manufacturing.
Visualizing the entire path of production from simulations is how the technology tools are making it much easier for manufacturers to optimize their processes through 3D design and factory-floor imaging. With today’s simulation tools, toolpath designers and manufacturing engineers can easily see exactly where NC toolpaths will fail and can anticipate challenges quickly, leading to immensely speeding up simulation and verification of the manufacturing process.
Some of the latest twists in simulation systems feature new capabilities that are being applied to the burgeoning 3D or additive manufacturing processes that builders are embracing for rapid prototyping and additive manufacturing of production components. Combining these two lean manufacturing technologies can move your plant to lean very quickly.
Machine Learning is about analytics
Modern manufacturing lean technologies are starting to incorporate machine learning throughout the production process. Predictive algorithms are being used to plan machine maintenance adaptively rather than on a fixed schedule. Meanwhile, quality control is becoming more and more automated, with adaptive algorithms that learn to recognize correctly manufactured products and reject defects.
Predictive maintenance: many of the industrial machines that are in manufacturing today are equipped with sensors and connected to the rest of the factory via the Internet of Things (IoT)platforms. These will no longer be scheduled they will be passive and predictive monitoring for challenges related to the production equipment.
Quality control: the inspection and quality control of the products is at the forefront of the focus. Computer vision algorithms based on machine learning can help the machines distinguish between the “good” ones and the flawed products.
Cloud Solutions Options more available
Along with integrating the newest technology and software solutions into your lean manufacturing, utilizing a cloud-based solution offers per-use and subscription services which are flexible and come with an affordable price tag for small and mid-sized manufacturers unable to host an on-site system or hire a department of data analysts. Crunching Big Data into Smart Data therefore may cost less via a cloud or web-based BI solution with various pre-packaged, off-site, browser-based options abounding.
What does this all mean?
It’s also important to keep an eye on future business. You don’t want to be limiting the resources dedicated to a value stream where the products or services will outstrip capacity in the near term.
Lean manufacturing requires teams to work together to make the processes better. Relying on the team to make the best decisions to integrate or change to lean manufacturing technologies that can improve the manufacturing processes is difficult. As with any project, the buy-in needs to be complete, from the floor workers to the CEO.