Author : Mr.M.Temel AYGUN
Lean Production – An attempt at a definition
The pioneer in the development and application of lean production is the Japanese automobile manufacturer Toyota. At first glance a variety of methods and principles are amalgamated under the umbrella of the Toyota Production System (TPS). Looking closer they comprise a holistic approach to the orientation of all activities towards the generation of customer value and the elimination of non-value-adding activities.
Lean is a strategic approach to improve operational excellence in the dimensions time, quality, productivity and flexibility. It is based on consistent values to engage people by leading from the shop floor, respect for people, teamwork and the development of exceptional associates and partners.
Whether in production or in adjoining areas like development or purchasing, the following applies: The fundamental mode of action of Lean lies in closely connected processes in which problems cannot hide and in employees who causatively solve these problems.
Meaning of standards
Standards with regards to Lean Production determine the current best methods for fulfilling a work task. The following applies: The right process delivers the right results.
Standards are usually the result of a process analysis and the subsequent elimination of instability and non-value-adding activities. The improved process or procedure is documented and rehearsed for as long as it takes to deliver stable results. It is differentiated between general work standards (e.g. about safety in production), process standards (e.g. technical parameters), standard procedures (e.g. procedure of daily team meetings or material replenishment), and standard work. Standard work contains guidelines for
- the time it takes for the fulfillment of a work task
- the sequence of work steps, and
- the permitted inventory of materials at a workstation.
Standards build the baseline for continuous improvement, as they comprise the basis to justify the current process performance and, thus, they enable the identification of deviations.
Lean is a holistic approach, not a methods toolbox
Many companies begin their journey with Lean in production, often with their first 5S campaigns or the development of KANBAN cycles for material controlling. If the correct methods are applied to the recognized waste, success will possibly set in. Often, however, disillusionment follows this project-driven approach, as these improvements are not sustainable. Among others, the reasons for this are:
- The isolated method application does not take place within the context of other methods (e.g. the 5S is introduced production-wide instead of focusing within the scope of the running setup time project).
- There is no value stream vision that synchronizes the improvement projects among one another in a targeted way (e.g. a setup time reduction project is carried out at machine X without reducing subsequent lot sizes and throughput times).
- A culture is missing that secures the improvements (e.g. if management doesn’t understand the necessity of standardizing and stabilizing new processes by detecting deviations).
The successful anchoring of Lean Production requires a system concept, a change in attitudes and awareness, and a long-term approach that extends beyond short-term savings targets.
The interplay of Lean elements in the Toyota Production System
Using the example of the TPS, the ideal interplay of lean elements is explained.
A The basis of TPS are organizationally and technologically stable or managed processes (e.g. in material provision or machining), that are subsequently standardized.
B The standardization of processes facilitates the secure (possibly takt-bound) interplay of processes and is the prerequisite for moving workstations closer together. The better processes work together, the lower the buffer stocks can be defined, the smaller is the space required, and the better are the material flows.
C The transfer of ever smaller batch sizes all the way to individual pieces facilitates the detection of defects, a quick escalation (Japanese: Jidoka), as well as the subsequent fault isolation.
D Visual management facilitates the recognition of deviations from standards (e.g. quality or process performance target).
E Recognized target/actual deviations ideally trigger problem solving or improvement processes (cf. Plan Do Check Act, PDCA), which begin with the question of the true cause. Here, deviations can be recognized in comparison to an existing standard or even with respect to new, more demanding target conditions.
F Finally, improvements lead to a higher level of stability or more efficient processes as well as employees with increased problem solving skills.
Impact directions of digitalization and Industry 4.0
Generally, digitalization can be characterized by two basic impact directions.
- First, by means of the digitalization of one’s own internal processes for efficiency enhancement (Field A). If the improvement of time, quality, and costs were the dominant topics of the past, flexibility and individuality are becoming increasingly more important.
- Second, through the generation of an additional customer benefit through the digitalization of the product or service offering (Field B).
The digitalization and interconnectivity of the products provide machine manufacturers with the opportunity to keep interacting with the customer beyond the time of sale. The product becomes the basis of continual customer communication. This can result in new data-based services and possible business models. Here it is pivotal that an additional benefit results, which is perceivable by the customer (e.g. through quicker delivery in ≤ x days or increased technical machine availability at x %, etc.) and for which the customer is willing to pay. In a completely digital business model architecture, a digital process integration of the customer with digitally supported value-added service and a digital payment model are merged (Field C).
Industry 4.0 stands for the superordinate idea of taking value creation to a new level through the merger of information and communications technology with production technology. This means knowing and networking products, operating resources, production processes, and organizational procedures. The networking should take place here both vertically from the sensor to the cloud and horizontally via customer-supplier relationships in value creation networks. The person takes center stage who orchestrates the digitally supported processes and is supported by digital tools in his or her decision-making. Employee motivation should be encouraged through tools. Intelligent products possess both information with regards to their own manufacturing process and the ability to collect and communicate data during the production and utilization phase.
The overall objective of Industry 4.0 is to save costs by higher productivity and, at the same time, to achieve direct benefits for customers and for one’s own company through better quality and new business models. Procedures should become more efficient and customers should profit from higher reliability of delivery as well as more individualized products. For the planning and implementation of Industry 4.0, there is no template or methods toolbox. Each company needs to define and follow its own path.
See you in next blog with the following topics :
- Synergies and contradictions
- Lean 4.0 – reaching the next level of excellence through digitalization
Kadıköy, İstanbul – TURKEY
M. Temel AYGÜN, Ph. D. in Aerospace Eng.