Digitize your Lean Efforts


Given the impact to supply chain performance that many manufacturers have felt do to the pandemic, it’s become important to speed up the use of technology. Implementing more technology as part of Industry 4.0 will allow you to take on larger improvement activities.  Here are some tips you can implement to digitize your lean efforts.

Believe me, the supply chain for many products has been broken.  As an example, our dryer failed this week.  It was due the dryer was 20 years old.  Now, trying to find a new one in stock- almost impossible.  I was looking for an LG dryer to match our LG washer.  There were almost none in stock in the Denver area.  Arrival dates for new stock ranged from November to 2021.  So there are real supply chain and lean improvement opportunities that can benefit from an increased digital solution.

Tip 1 – Digitize your Lean Framework

Much operational excellence and Lean improvements involve pen and paper.  Clipboards, stopwatches, times studies.  Calendars of events printed and placed in a PMO- Project Management Office for all to see.

One limitation of this approach is that only a few people are involved at a time.  Most RIE events are 4-8 people.  It’s hard to track who is interested enough to venture into the PMO to see what is going on.

Using electronic Kanban boards, Asana, or other project management tools allows for greater information sharing and engagement.  You can display project tasks and status for all to see.  You can get larger groups involved in problem-solving.

Tip 2 – Use digital technologies

After digitizing your Lean framework, the next step is to ingrain digital technologies into daily activities.  Can you deploy Augmented Reality for training new employees on the line?

Can you digitize work instructions by embedding video into them?  I know a company that issued iPads to the floor to video work steps if there wasn’t a video available when an operator pulled up a work instruction.  They quickly developed a digital library of assets they could use as daily work instructions.

Tip 3 –  Use technology for a holistic view

Micro-improvements are fantastic, are the essence of continuous improvement.  As more and more sensors, Artificial Intelligence, and Big Data are deployed on the factory floor, the opportunity to improve larger issues will begin.

You take on the entire plant’s use of power.  You can improve quality across the entire facility.  You can measure all the equipment uptime and calculate OEE for every piece of equipment in the plant.

The scope of improvement opportunities increases as you deploy these new technologies.  Solving these bigger issues requires more employees to become engaged.  Imagine meeting weekly with an entire department to review the information and make improvements.  Your speed of improvement grows exponentially and your company becomes better every week, holistically.

Use these tips and you will be able to effectively digitize your lean efforts!

As always, it’s an honor to serve you, and I hope this helps you and your organization get a little better today.

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