When and where did the concept of Lean manufacturing originate? Was it the early 1900s when Frank Gilbreth’s “time and motion” study reduced the required actions to lay a brick from 18 to 4.5? (By the way – how can I perform half-an-action anyway?) Or perhaps it was with Henry Ford, the father of the continuous motion assembly line? I’ll never forget early in my career working at Ford Motor Company in Dearborn, Michigan, and seeing the entire process – from steel-making to a finished automobile – all in one location.
Regardless of origin, the concept of Lean was greatly improved and more fully developed through the Toyota Production System (TPS) and their Just-in-Time (JIT) principles. It’s hard to believe now, but much of this thought was bandied about in the 1950s and 1960s. Later, many attribute the phrase “Lean manufacturing” to James Womack in the 1990s and maybe more specifically to his book called “Lean Thinking” authored in 1996. Proponents of Lean Thinking consistently claim that through implementation of Lean manufacturing processes, waste can be reduced from an average of 70-90% down to around only 25-35%, which no matter if you’re a “new math” guy or an “old math” guy like me, it’s still a bunch, right?
The principles of Lean manufacturing, depending on which “flavor” you adopt, can be summed simply as Cost Reduction, Waste Reduction, Just-in-Time and Visual Workplace (among a handful of others from time-to-time). I recently read a study of a visual workplace tool that many call “Day-by-the-Hour” boards, and the results were productivity gains ranging from a modest 5% to an impressive 40% improvement. Wow!
RMG NetworksTM is in the business of providing intelligent visual communications solutions that incorporate the principles of Lean manufacturing. Specifically in the supply chain space, we offer several Visual Supply Chain solutions. These supply chain management tools meet the needs of supply chain managers and operators who are constantly challenged to increase their facilities profitability by either increasing output without adding costs or maintaining output while minimizing labor costs.
RMG’s Labor Productivity Improvement tool provides real-time, highly visible metrics and data that enable employees to see how they are performing against goals and how they can adjust their behavior to improve productivity and profitability. This Labor Productivity Improvement solution instantly transmits real-time metrics (e.g., picking and packing rates, rankings, goals and performance by teams or individual members) via “scoreboards” on large displays and desktop dashboards to employees on the manufacturing or warehouse floor, enabling them to better make informed decisions on a moment-by-moment basis. When employees see the immediate impact they have on their jobs and where they stand in relation to line or shift goals, they tend to stay on target and work toward exceeding their goals. The data also can be pushed to mobile devices, enabling management to monitor activity from any location or through preset threshold alert notifications. We’ve seen customer results of up to 20% increase in units produced per day from implementing these visual supply chain solutions.
Lean manufacturing has come a long way from documenting the actions of brick laying and Ford assembly lines to the instant visualization of data on large screens and mobile devices. It might not be your Dad’s Lean manufacturing, but the principles are still hard at work today.
To learn more about RMG Networks Labor Productivity Improvement solutions and their proven ROI for supply chain operations, contact us today or visit our website at http://www.rmgnetworks.com/visual-supply-chain.
About the Author:
Kerwin Everson is Vice President, Supply Chain Solutions for RMG Networks. His goal is to educate companies on the value of visualizing real-time performance management. Connect with Kerwin on LinkedIn.
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