Lean on Me

Value streaming and customer pull are fundamental pillars in lean manufacturing. Based largely on the Toyota Production System and often confused with Motorola's Six Sigma principles, today's lean initiatives are designed to replace batch-and-queue mentality with flow production, but what impact does that have on designing machine controls and automation? Do controls engineers at industrial machine builders need to approach the technology differently? Does it change the way they receive the critical information that allows them to design the automation? How is lean different? Read our April 2008 cover story, "Lean Lets Value Swim Upstream."
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  • <p>One of the Lean tools that may have some impact here is "Quality at the Source". This tool utilizes checklists and standard forms to gather requirements from the customer (the customer can be internal or external) which can help get the information to the controls engineer more completely and accurately. Incomplete/inaccurate/changing information obviously contributes to non-value added work/increased costs/frustration. In addition, the timing of the work release to the controls engineer (proper flow) also helps in this regard - too early and the information may still be fluid.</p>

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  • <p>It's great to see that companies of all types are implementing lean, and that many of the companies represented here are even deploying it in front-office areas, such as engineering. Rexroth's lean podcast series actually explores some of the very same aspects of lean, including lean engineering and lean equipment design, with guest speaker Jamie Flinchbaugh from the Lean Learning Center.</p> <p>Learning to become lean everywhere is a big key to success. Even if the initial kaizen events and lean projects take place in the factory, if everyone else in the company fails to accept lean, there's no chance of success. For example, you may need investments. If the financial managers of the company see it as another flavor of the month program, lean can be stifled instantly.</p> <p>So the best approach is to start with cross-functional groups that cross all disciplines that will touch an early project. That way, each participant can carry the feeling of success back to their respective departments. And since the results are extremely tangible with lean, it's not really a hard sell. The hard part is sustaining the momentum, which an upcoming podcast in our series will address. Congratulations to those companies represented here. It sounds as if you're all well on your way.</p> <p>Lean practitioners interested in the Rexroth lean podcasts, can find the series at www.boschrexroth-us.com/leanpodcast.</p>

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