Rob, this is a really good comprehensive look at how things are changing in manufacturing on many levels as part of a real evolution happening at the moment. It's good to see more leaner processes and technologies coming into play, especially to reduce waste. So things are not only leaner but also greener, which is a very good thing!
We're going lean at our company. Greener it isn't, more a case of "how come nobody thought of that before...?". However, we are a small private comapny so we can do this. Let's see any of you get the "efficiency" word past the unions without trouble.
Well it's good to hear your company is going leaner, Battar. I suppose it isn't always greener, but I think if you look at the big picture, any cutback on waste is probably good for the environment somehow. As you point out, it might be tougher for some unionized companies to drive efficiency, let alone be more green! But lean is a good start.
OK, Elizabeth, I didn't spell it out in my comment, but the unavoidable truth about lean manufacturing is that I can produce the same output either in less time or with less hands (usually the former). It doesn't mean that I can significantly increase my customer base - my competitors are doing the same, so the playing field evens out. It does mean that we have less employment to offer our workhands, and eventually it means some of them looking for a new job. So it's not all sweetness and light. Of course, it does shave a few bucks off the cost of the product.
Well thank you for that real-world perspective, Battar. There are always two sides to every story and while it's certainly a good thing to try to improve efficiency and reduce cost if possible, it's interesting to know the true effect of such efforts, and how it changes or affects how things already are done.
Well put Battar. However, it seems the public has voted to raise the minimum wage irregardless of the impact on the cost of doing business. So once again the "Kiazan" events will start "to reduce waste". However, this time I think it will actually mean a few of the lowered skilled people will go.
My philosophy is to expand my skill base so I am never veiwed as waste!
Yes, you're right, Rob, I think a lot has to do with the technology. I think sometimes maybe there is a cultural resistance to implementing some of the technology that will makes things more efficient because initially it seems more expensive. But in the long run, I think it will benefit manufacturers.
One thing I found that was interesting (it will be in an upcoming story) is that cost competition among automation and motion control hardware vendors is driving down costs. So not all of the emerging efficiencies are coming at a premium price. Plus, automation vendors are well aware their products and systems have to deliver a clear return on investment if they're going to get the order.
My one run-in with lean manufacturing and the culture that it begets was a few years back, at the Nissan plant in Arkansas. I shipped some machine parts there in preparation for installation on a machine I would be working on in another day. MY shipping instructions included a request to deliver the package of custome cables to the post coordinates of the machine that I would be working on, so that I would not need to get them from the shipping department area.
When I arrived the next day and attempted to locate the cable assemblies I found out that they had already been scrapped because they were not needed at that moment, or in the next few hours. which was a big waste of time and very expensive connectors.
I am still not impressed by that aspect of japanese lean manufacturing. It comes across as a stupid obsession with neatness and a refusal to think.