How To Reduce Waste, Increase Efficiency, And Boost Profits In Manufacture

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How do you make the most of your resources in manufacturing? Efficiency is necessary for profitability.You do it by reducing waste and by using special equipment to advance your product.

Reducing waste and improving efficiency are actually two different manufacturing agendas. But if worked on together, they create a powerful combination. This synergy makes manufacturing easier and more cost effective.

The way to reduce waste is to use lean manufacturing. And the way to improve efficiency is to use industrial computers.

Lean Manufacturing

Lean Manufacturing theory helps a manufacturer: 

  • to cut waste
  • to  keep people productive
  • to use equipment effectively
  • to keep workspaces responsive to modifications

A Brief History

Henry Ford stumbled upon the principles of Lean Manufacturing. His plant could not keep up with the demand for his Model T automobiles. Demand was high while his manufacturing process was too slow. It took a long time to make each car, and this increased costs and reduced profits. 

In mulling over this problem, he noticed how his workers built a car. They would go to a car, attach a part, then go get another part to attach. They were going back and forth. What, he wondered, would happen if the car came to the workers?

He created a continuous flow process on his assembly line to speed things up. Now the cars came to the stationary workers. Moreover, each worker only did one job. For instance, one worker would only attach a wheel while another worker would attach a front headlamp. There was little waste of time or labor, and the first assembly line was born.

But there was a problem. 

Although the process helped speed up production and make manufacturing profitable, it was inflexible.

Inflexibility meant two things:

1. An assembly line could only work to produce Model T cars. Making another model was not possible. Each model needed its own assembly line.

2. It was only cost-effective to build Model T cars. It cost too much to build other assembly lines to meet changes in consumer demand.

The result was that his business suffered when consumers demanded different types of cars. He ended up with a  large inventory of unsold cars when demand for Model T cars fell.

Although other car manufacturers adopted his idea, they also had problems of unsold inventory. 

The continuous flow plan worked too well. It resulted in overproduction. Still, it was better than what they had before, which was underproduction. Then Taiichi Ohno of Toyota found a solution. The Toyota Production System (TPS) helped car manufacturers to stop overproducing cars. His method was so profitable that Toyota became one of the world’s leading automakers.

Today, Lean Manufacturing is useful in any industry because it  provides three benefits:

  1. It increases efficiency.
  2. It reduces wasteful processes.
  3. It saves money without compromising quality.

Troubleshooting

Troubleshooting consists of three steps:

First, identifying where waste occurs. 

Second, analyzing the waste and tracking down the root cause.

Third, solving the root cause.

These three steps are repeated for every type of manufacturing waste.

7 Ways to Reduce Waste

Lean Manufacturing focuses on the following 7 ways to increase operational efficiency:

1. Improving production quantity by not overproducing and only manufacturing what consumers demand. By making use of build to print services, companies can better control the potential for waste since they can lay out the exact specs for their product.

2. Improving speed by cutting lag time between production stages.

3. Improving inventory management by not keeping supply levels too high.

4. Improving transportation by efficiently moving materials .

5. Improving processing speed by not over-processing. This occurs when working on a product too often.

5. Improving motion by making sure that people and equipment move quickly and efficiently between tasks.

6. Improving productivity by reducing time spent in finding and fixing mistakes.

7. Improving workforce value by making workers more productive at their jobs.

Industrial Computers

Lean Manufacturing works by crunching the numbers. But data itself is far too complex to track through manual means. This is where the power of computers comes into play. Still, harsh environments make it difficult to use ordinary computers.  Systems on a shop floor can be fried or jarred because factories are often noisy, dusty, or damp. They can also have high heat or high vibrations. All these factors can disrupt the delicate electronic circuitry in a computer.

Industrial computers were designed to solve these problems. While there are many types of industrial computers one particularly effective type of industrial computers are Computer-on-Modules (COM). These integrated computer modules offer distinct advantages over other industrial computers. For one, they support system expansion. For another, they allow application-specific customization. Moreover, they work without cables because they plug into a carrier board. These stripped-down, efficient computer modules free manufacturers to focus on their core business. An elaborate IT infrastructure is not necessary to keep computer systems up and running.

Using COM offers distinct advantages:

* A shorter manufacturing time

* Simplifying development

* More flexibility 

* Enhanced interoperability

* Stability in harsh environments

* Long life cycles

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