Lean Production and Industry 4.0 -Synergies and contradictions by Space Dreamer


Author : Mr.M.Temel AYGUN

Lean Production and Industry 4.0

Synergies and contradictions

Lean Production and Industry 4.0 are essentially in pursuit of similar goals. Lean Production aims for improvements in the dimensions of time, quality, costs, safety, and motivation. Furthermore, Industry 4.0 accentuates the dimension of the individualization of products and services as well as their offerings within the scope of new business models. As similar as the goals are, the approaches are quite different. With Industry 4.0, the pursuit of simple, stable, and standardized processes is abandoned in support of more complex, self controlling systems. With that the standard, as the important basis in Lean Production for the recognition of deviations, is dropped. Instead of continuous, employee-driven improvement, systems based on big-data and algorithms should optimize themselves. Systematic problem solving by people is potentially replaced by the search for correlation in data instead of the search for the root cause in the real-life process. Flow lines with takt and sequence are dissolved. Thereby important components of standard work are missing as a basis of the recognition of deviations. The line stop (Japanese: Jidoka), as possibly the most important pillar of Lean Production, is in danger. In the case of deviations, intelligent algorithms search for alternative production paths through decoupled systems and thereby cushion the impact of interruptions in the production flow. In this way the important pressure in a Lean Production system, to immediately recognize and analyze a deviation and come up quickly with a solution to the problem, is dropped. This short account provides plenty in terms of a potential for conflict in the interplay of both approaches. The risk of an ideal-typical implementation of Industry 4.0 lies in the penetration of the “lean” improvement cycle from the recognition of deviations, the causative solution of problems, and the continuous development of processes and employees.

If this topic is treated deliberately, digitalization and Industry 4.0 offer a new, larger solution space for the development of Lean. The foundation for this is the opportunity for an exchange of information between random end points of the value stream in shortest time. Great potential is possible in the following areas, among others:        

  • The product, as an information carrier, generates data and actively controls its production process.
  • The configuration of (standard) work instructions and workspaces takes place through the product.
  • Condition monitoring leads to faster, more reactive problem solving, e.g. through the linking and processing of product and process data.
  • Prediction allows for proactive problem solving if deviations are recognized before impacts on the production process occur.
  • Companies are able to standardize large and customer-individualized workloads at less efforts, e.g. when the product provides the configuration and provision of its own standard work documents during the production process.

Lean 4.0 – reaching the next level  of excellence through digitalization

The ideal in Lean Production is characterized by 0 errors, 100% value creation and 0% waste, one piece flow, and employee orientation. In the age of digitalization and Industry 4.0, there is no reason to change something with this ideal. There are, however, new opportunities for bringing an existing Lean Production system closer to  these goals step-by-step by integrating the potential of digitalization into the familiar Lean methods without giving up the underlying mindset.

If you consider the development of Lean in companies, different development horizons can be identified:

1. Lean – first walking attempts

Many companies make their first lean walking attempts with topics like 5S, quick setups, KANBAN and group work. If this “Lean toolbox” is used within the scope of individual improvement projects without the system mindset, Lean will not unfold its full effect and the results won’t be sustainable.

2. Value stream perspective

With the goal of letting products flow and reducing throughput times, Value Stream Management helps to develope the vision of a lean value stream. Taking this up, Lean projects serve the implementation of this vision and are placed in a general context. Initially stabilized and then standardized processes are geared towards the customer takt. Significant improvements in quality, productivity, and inventory are often the result. This approach is driven from the topdown, however.

3. Employee perspective

In order to secure an achieved condition and continue to improve, deviations from standards (such as time constraints, process parameters, etc.) must be reliably recognized by employees and management and have to trigger new PDCA cycles. Many companies are currently introducing such an improvement approach with “Shop Floor Management”. It is supported by leadership that clearly specifies an improvement direction (but not the solution) and supports its employees in daily improvement routines. This demanding leadership approach leads to continuous process improvement along with the simultaneous development of employees and their problem solving skills.

4. Digital Lean

Only after a sufficient degree of Lean maturity has been reached and the respective culture has been anchored, the digital upgrading of established solutions should be started. A focused digitalization must take place within the context of the overall value stream goals. Questions can be, for example:

  • Which workstations or machines are especially critical to quality?
  • At which workstations does a flexible and simultaneous mistake-proof design play a role?
  • Which problems were not able to be solved to satisfaction up to this point?

Before a new technology is introduced, it must also be asked how stable it is, which new process risks it brings along, and whether it can be integrated into Lean procedures without additional waste. In this way, for example, a problem analysis solely on a data basis or on a screen contradicts the underlying Lean improvement principle of directly and personally grasping the situation at the location of occurrence (Japanese: Genchi Genbutsu).

5. Lean 4.0

The digital upgrading improves a lean system within the previous value stream thinking. In order to achieve the next horizon in terms of faster and more flexible order processing, a cross-departmental synchronization of information and material flows is necessary (“Lean 4.0”). The starting point is therefore the customer’s request and its integration into the supplier’s IT systems. One question, for example, can be how individualized customer requirements can be implemented in terms of standard work at every workstation without additional planning effort (e.g. during work preparation). Here, at the latest, Lean abandons production and becomes a company-wide management approach. 

See you in next blog with the following topics :

  • Digital development paths using  the Toyota House as an example
  • Stable and Standardized Processes
  • Visual Management
  • Levelled Production


Kadıköy, İstanbul – TURKEY

M. Temel AYGÜN, Ph. D. in Aerospace Eng.


Copyright : https://industrie40.vdma.org/en/viewer/-/v2article/render/26009125

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