Arnold believes that everyone who works at a plant can contribute to lean improvements. “I see a constant vigil and persistence in walking the floor to root out and reduce/eliminate sources of waste,” said Arnold. “I believe every employee needs to play a part in waste identification.” He also believes that the process does not need to be complicated by analysis and theory. “Keep it simple. Make it understandable to all,” he said.
The new products Stanley Vidmar has introduced to contribute to lean are very analog: cabinets, drawers, stacks of tools, and inventory. “While technology is ever-evolving, certain products, elements, and ideas have withstood the test of time by producing value-saving storage space,” Arnold told us. “Our cabinets are still a viable means of providing storage density, security, and organization, which ultimately improves efficiency in the storing and retrieval of inventory.”
We’re still at the beginning of lean
GE’s Bernardo believes the recent advances in lean manufacturing are just beginning. For now, it’s mostly large companies that are taking advantage of smart plant technology. “As for adoption, we’re at the beginning. We’re seeing it more with larger companies,” he said. “We have to show them concretely what is possible in adding value to the business.” He tells his customers, “You want to know the health of the plant? I can give you
the ability to visualize it in a Web browser.” He also believes that lean practices can be implemented incrementally. “This doesn’t have to be all or nothing,” he said.
Ultimately, lean manufacturing is a matter of reducing any waste in the production process. “It’s about eliminating waste, bottlenecks, reducing inventory and defects. Everybody is adopting ways to get rid of waste,” Richard Huss, president and CEO of Festo, told Design News. “Manufacturing has to be faster, smarter, and less expensive.”
Huss pointed to safety as one small but significant approach to lean. “Safety is modular now. Rather than shutting down the whole line when there’s a violation, you shut down only at the violation. Now you’re down for 10 to 15 minutes instead of hours,” he told us.
Some of the concepts of lean are a matter of turning analog manufacturing into digitized smart plants that can be operated like a video game. Yet some forms of lean manufacturing are surprisingly simple in concept -- make safety shutdowns local, create workstations that are ergonomically sound and require the fewest possible steps. All of the lean ideas contribute to a plant that is smarter, faster, more efficient, and less expensive to run.