In today’s hyper-competitive manufacturing environment, those who don’t improve risk being left behind. Continuous improvement has long been the goal of a slate of methodologies, including Lean, Six Sigma, and others. But what is continuous improvement in the manufacturing sector? How can a company initiate a journey using best practices and advanced technology to improve and optimize manufacturing processes?
Deeply rooted in the Lean manufacturing movement that grew out of the Toyota Production System (TPS), most process improvement programs follow a model focused on eliminating waste. Waste elimination within several categories can lead to an overall improvement of maintainable processes over time.
According to the Toyota Production system, there are three categories of waste:
Muda is a class of waste that focuses on non-value-added work. Muda recognizes two distinct types of activities that don’t add value. The first is part of the production process and impacts the end customer. It’s eliminated if it adds no value to the production process or the customer. If it adds value to the end customer, such as safety checks, then it’s allowed.
The second type is referred to as the Seven Wastes and includes:
While Muda focuses on process waste, Mura is centered on capacity issues. It means “unevenness” and can trigger the Seven Wastes listed in Muda. Therefore, one comes from the other, compounding the impact of the waste in question.
One example would be a midstream process that requires slower processing due to the performance characteristics of the material used. In this case, upstream processes bottleneck and cause delays or excess transport while downstream production processes starve for the material.
Some industries can address this by using Just-in-Time or Kanban systems to create a pull throughput rather than a push strategy. The goal is to level the work so the production flow evens out.
Muri focuses on the overburden in the labor aspect of production. While high production rates are every manufacturer’s goal, pushing workers or equipment past their optimum or 100% capacity isn’t sustainable. This waste drives employee issues such as morale, absenteeism, and equipment failure. Lean manufacturing methodology uses standardized work to design and implement sustainable work processes without overburdening people and equipment.
Any company can undertake its continuous improvement journey at any time. But some steps should be followed to ensure that the effort isn’t wasted and that results are maintained.
Here are five ways to achieve a continuous improvement model in the manufacturing process.
IoT was made for the Lean manufacturing process. With real-time data capture and analysis, actionable insights can deliver value and increase the effectiveness of improvement projects. It can also uncover hidden trends and unknown hindrances to production.
Industrial IoT solutions like MachineMetrics enable the autonomous collection, standardization, and contextualization of production data. This provides immediate insight into the performance of an operation, helping manufacturers develop accurate production baselines and identify critical opportunities for improvement.
With complete visibility, continuous improvement leaders can prioritize initiatives and begin to roll out their model of process improvement. The real-time data collected can also directly drive process optimization and automation by providing the information people and systems need to take action.
Learn how you can use an Industrial Data Platform to enable a successful continuous improvement program. Explore the most popular use cases for MachineMetrics and the amount of ROI our customers are experiencing in our latest guide: MachineMetrics Top Use Cases and Value Realization.
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