Lean manufacturing can improve your bottom line and make your business more competitive. Here’s how.
When businesses think about increasing profits, many focus on how to draw in new paying customers. However, there’s another way to grow profits which has nothing to do with attracting new business: reducing waste.
Waste means added expense for manufacturers—expenses which get passed on to the consumer and are reflected by the price of goods. Companies that have excess waste must charge higher prices to compensate, and this makes them vulnerable to competitors who can create more efficient processes, thereby lowering their prices and earning a larger market share.
Reducing waste not only makes businesses more profitable by virtue of cutting expenses, it also makes it easier for them to grow profits by offering a more competitive product and attracting new customers. And the best way to reduce waste is through lean manufacturing.
Lean manufacturing is not a new concept, but it is one constantly under refinement. Manufacturing researchers identified five key principles that define lean manufacturing. They are:
- How does the customer value the product, and what conditions must be met for the product to meet the customer’s expectations? All lean manufacturing processes must work toward achieving a product that provides that value to the customer.
- Value Stream. What steps in the manufacturing process contribute toward the value of the product to the customer? Are there steps that bring no value to the customer and can therefore be eliminated?
- With the wasteful steps eliminated, how does the process flow? Do each step in the manufacturing process lead smoothly from one to the next?
- With steps reduced and value increased, how has the time to market been reduced? Achieving shorter production turnarounds helps manufacturers respond more nimbly to shifting customer demand.
- How can the process be continuously improved to provide greater value with fewer production errors?
Now that you understand the principle, let’s look at six different ways lean manufacturing reduces waste.
1. Reduce over-production.
Fluctuations in market demand can make it difficult for businesses to predict how much inventory they need to have on hand. Because businesses fear running out of a product, many over-produce products, which must then be stored in a warehouse, and are sometimes never sold. Lean manufacturing responds to demand faster, cutting the waste of overproduction.
2. Reduce over-processing.
Over-processing involves adding steps to a manufacturing process that are inefficient, or which do not provide value to the customer. For example, this may include using automation technologies that are not the best solution for a particular production method. Lean manufacturing refines the process to eliminate inefficient production methods.
3. Reduce manufacturing errors.
A manufacturing process with high levels of production errors leads to either wasted parts or wasted time and resources as components are fixed and brought up to standard. Lean manufacturing focuses on high-quality controls to reduce production errors.
4. Reduce avoidable downtime.
While most automated manufacturing machines aren’t running at all times, excess downtime can still be inefficient, and if a machine goes offline unexpectedly, it can lead to delays and lost productivity. Lean manufacturing seeks to eliminate unscheduled downtime while creating a manufacturing flow that reduces the amount of time equipment is left idle.
5. Reduce transportation.
Moving raw materials, components, and finished products from one place to another—whether in a factory building itself or between multiple locations—costs a lot in physical labor and other resources. The further each piece needs to move before it is completed, the more cost there will be to the manufacturer. Redesigned lean manufacturing workflows can eliminate unnecessary transportation costs.
6. Reduce the physical footprint of automation machinery.
Floor space inside a manufacturing plant is at a premium, meaning large and sprawling machines add to costs for manufacturers. Compact machines that can combine automation processes efficiently reduce wasted physical space.
The Universal Base from Eagle Technologies offers a lean manufacturing solution for small batch manufacturers.
At Eagle, we’re well aware of the constant drive to deliver lean manufacturing tools to our customers. In fact, our place in the manufacturing automation industry means we face this challenge on two fronts: we not only design lean manufacturing solutions for our clients, but we must apply the same principles to our own company, in order to deliver automation equipment to our clients efficiently.
As part of our efforts to help manufacturers become more lean, we’ve developed a universal base that allows our customers to reduce waste by making it more efficient for them to produce small manufacturing runs. Our universal base follows lean manufacturing values in the following ways:
- Value: The base reduces manufacturing costs by providing affordable automation equipment that is suitable for small production runs. This allows businesses to be more competitive and adaptable.
- Value Stream: The custom fixtures can be adapted to suit any type of automation need, and because the base is the most expensive piece of capital hardware, new tooling plates can be designed and created as needed.
- Flow: The universal base comes in three standard sizes which can be configured into various shapes to minimize their footprint on the manufacturing floor. They are also movable, allowing manufacturers to wheel them from one part of the factory floor to another, so that the production automation can be done wherever it makes the most sense.
- Push: With an eight-week delivery, the universal base can be ready for manufacturers in as much time as it takes them to source materials.
- Perfection: Because the tooling plates are replaceable, manufacturers can quickly update their designs without having to build an entirely new machine. Our tooling fixture plates are also designed with fail-safe practices in place to reduce the likelihood of human error, and are built to ergonomic standards to improve employee comfort and reduce weariness.
If you would like to use one of our universal base machines as part of your manufacturing processes, contact us. We can discuss your automation needs and begin the design and build process right away.
Brandon Fuller, Eagle Technologies
Eagle Technologies, headquarters in Bridgman, MI