Feb 27 2015

Smart-Pull Gaining Traction in Lean Manufacturing

Lean Manufacturing at Ebara with Smart-PullBack in June of 2013 we introduced the concept of “Smart-Pull in Lean Manufacturing” to this blog, Manufacturing Transformation. Of course, this topic has existed for quite some time before, but as is the case with new concepts, the technology had not quite caught up with the concept.

This notion is actually quite radical if you are a Lean “purist.” Adding an IT infrastructure to your Lean operations could be argued as contrary to removing waste from operations. But, the power of adding intelligence into a process such that inventory replenishment can be automatically triggered – at just the right time and place – does appear to be raising interest with manufacturers.

As was referenced in James Mok’s earlier article, this new model of “Smart-Pull” describes a mechanism that individuals can transform an institution through their interactions with knowledge flows. While this is in accordance with Lean thinking, the method is beyond the scope of any current literature on Lean methodology. In the context of manufacturing operations, this means all resources including operators, engineers, machines, suppliers, materials, repair parts and others are now given a new level of capability to self-organize and self-improve.

Fast forward to today, nearly two years later, and we have a case study to help validate this concept, and the benefits that can truly be made possible with such an approach.

Success Story

Ebara, a leading Japanese manufacturer of pumps and fluid machinery, has implemented a Dassault Systèmes’ Manufacturing Operations Management (MOM) solution to help improve inventory accuracy and visibility. The company will use the solution to employ Smart-Pull production processes to reduce lead times and inventory while improving efficiency.

Their MOM solution will unify a sequence of disparate inventory, production and delivery processes, initially at Ebara’s Fujisawa plant in Japan, with the aim of improving visibility and control of its production processes.

Ebara is benefiting from a wide range of Pull type production processes, from production, supplier and inbound order, to inventory and outbound. The solution also provides real-time visibility to inventory management, with links to enterprise resource planning (ERP), and added mobility access and visibility to production sites using handheld devices.


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Permanent link to this article: http://www.apriso.com/blog/2015/02/smart-pull-gaining-traction-in-lean-manufacturing/

Feb 25 2015

5 Best Practices for Choosing Global Suppliers

global_supply_chain_best-practicesExpanding your business to keep up with supply and demand is a good thing. As your business grows and requires more resources, it’s silly to assume you won’t need to source global vendors. But as businesspeople all over the world know, managing supply channels in a global economy has its opportunities as well as its pitfalls and, from day one, operations management must be educated on mitigating risks.

Once your supply chain goes international, there are regulations, constraints and best practices that will help keep operations running smoothly everywhere.

1. Choose Wisely

The decision of which supplier to use should not be taken lightly, as manufacturing suppliers who are not true to quality or delivery promises can kill your productivity. Choosing the right supplier is a multi-goal, multi-criteria issue that is spread over many departments. Typically, the decision making construct doesn’t have specific outcomes; this is called a fuzzy environment. Knowing you need your widget to have specific costs, dimensions and delivery locations would be a crisp decision setting. Most companies have flexibility in some of its parameters so that the selection process becomes more difficult. There are newly established computer programs using hierarchical analytic processes that will help in identifying the best manufacturing suppliers, even in a fuzzy environment.

2. Best Working Conditions

Low wages, child labor and hazardous working conditions in a global market can can be more problematic than beneficial. Business consultants are recommending that manufacturing companies look at more than simple quality compliance when analyzing a supplier’s viability. Thoroughly review and analyze the work structure, average pay structure and employee satisfaction at the company before making a final decision.

3. Importance Of Product Safety

Although product safety and security measures are always a concern in manufacturing, our growing global economy has made these factors increasingly important on a worldwide scale. Though international suppliers may be able to promise a lower price point, they come at a risk of increased local and national restrictions. Product safety must be defined on a worldwide scale. As an example, the sealant supplier Apple Rubber has quality compliance from both U.S. governmental departments and European organizations, making them eligible to deliver globally without risk of regulatory issues.

4. Social Responsibility

Say one of your suppliers goes rogue, manufacturing ceases and the decision processes start new. Your company will be linked to your supplier’s production, which includes its socially responsible branding. When shopping for suppliers, a 2010 issue of the Journal of Supply Chain Management advises having a mind for long-term operation as well as identifying specific components of social responsibility and making sure the suppliers are contractually bound to follow them. Breach of these requirements needs to be just as important as a violation of performance, especially when it comes to social responsibility, as the ramifications of your supply chain organizations can reach into your company’s bottom line.

5. Third Party Labor

Hiring third-party labor contractors can be a cost-saving resource or it can also be a source of unscrupulous labor practices. It’s challenging to track third party labor contractors in a global economy, so like sustainability, the use of labor contractors needs to be contractually enforced. Make sure that there is specific language to vet recruitment organizations outside of the vendor company. Likewise, add criteria for third party employment. Since many countries, including some places in the United States, use informal hiring practices, legal recourse is a must.

Some of the points listed above might seem obvious, but you’d be surprised at how many businesses are hit with fines, fees and bad media because they failed to consider certain factors. Look at all of the information and decide what makes the most sense for the long-term future of your company.

Permanent link to this article: http://www.apriso.com/blog/2015/02/5-best-practices-for-choosing-global-suppliers/

Feb 20 2015

How Advancements in Manufacturing Have (Positively) Impacted Safety

safety_manufacturing_operationsAdvances in manufacturing technology and processes are having a profound impact on every phase of traditional manufacturing, including design, execution, process control, and safety measures used around the globe. These are positive advances that can produce better products while creating less waste, align the supply chain more closely with demand, and keep employees safer than they have ever been.

Digital Manufacturing Advances

Pure digital manufacturing involves the development of prototypes, the planning, and the customizing of production processes using virtual techniques that are entirely automated, or nearly so. Automated control ensures that production runs generate only the quantity of product desired, without overruns, so the manufacturing process is leaner and more responsive to actual demand. This approach supports a build-to-order production strategy, rather than a build-to-stock strategy.

Product generally travels through this kind of build process at a quicker rate, because unnecessary steps have been designed out, which in turn allows goods to reach the consumer in a more timely fashion. From a safety perspective, automated design methods contribute to a safer work environment through a refinement of the process and greater virtual testing that can be accomplished to check ergonomics, physical requirements as well as other factors that can lead to injury if not properly evaluated.

Global Manufacturing Advances

Global manufacturing is undergoing considerable transformation, which has resulted in significant cutting-edge advances for industry. Advances have occurred in the form of collaborative engineering of automation software, cloud-enabled services on physically remote platforms, and collaborative architectural design. The practical uses of such technology are currently being tested and evaluated in several locations such as RMIT University in Melbourne, Australia.

At RMIT, a global laboratory has been set up to link industrial entities to universities at locations around the world. This connectivity was established to provide a collaborative space for experimental design and testing of physical systems managed by automated means. An initial test was arranged in 2013 to connect remote automated equipment, operators, testers, software developers and researchers to ensure that proper control would be maintained. And, most importantly, this new level of collaboration sought to unlock new ways to approach safety issues – helping to keep our manufacturing work environments as safe as ever!

With the tremendous success of that initial test, the network of partners in the program has been broadened as more companies seek to obtain the benefits of this new manufacturing technology. As this ultra-modern approach rolls out to more large companies, it is anticipated that the “islands” in the manufacturing stream will grow fewer. More inter-connectedness between multiple organizations within and external to companies offers the opportunity for greater sharing of safety best practices. In short, the manufacturing process is becoming much more collaborative and collective.

Impacts on Safety

Each of these activities is having a huge impact on safety and safety training in the advanced workplace of today. With parts of the build process handled by automation, there are fewer actual persons involved on assembly lines and workstations, so many of the safety concerns from assembly are anticipated to be reduced or eliminated.

Another very noticeable impact has been in the creation of an entirely new position in companies that make use of digital and or global manufacturing methods – the safety engineer. This person is charged with having an intimate knowledge of several engineering disciplines, for instance controls, mechanics, and electronics. They must also have a deep understanding of safety requirements and regulations. Responsibilities include the creation of a harmonious connection between cutting edge technology, design requirements, and necessary safety practices.

Safety methods and training for those specific safety methods will now have to take on a greater awareness – of remote locations, and of the operations personnel involved in those remote processes. It will not be enough to practice good safety locally, because the process will no longer be entirely local. This greater awareness should be seen as a very good thing though, because after all, the key to safety in the workplace is having the awareness of good safety practices in the first place.


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Permanent link to this article: http://www.apriso.com/blog/2015/02/how-advancements-in-manufacturing-have-positively-impacted-safety/

Feb 18 2015

Real-time Operation Optimization: A New Reality?

optimizing_shop_floor_schedules_holy_grailOptimizing shop floor schedules has long been the Holy Grail of manufacturing. It’s so fundamental to manufacturing performance that it has been the subject of extensive academic research for at least three decades. Yet even with advancing computer technology and sophisticated scheduling algorithms, real world solutions have been hard to come by.

There are several reasons for this, among them:

  • Lack of high quality inputs – It’s hard to know precisely what’s going on in production at any given time; the GIGO adage applies here (Garbage In, Garbage Out); schedules often fail when information is out-of-date or incorrect.
  • Inability to collect all elements affecting the schedule – This problem is related to the previous one, viewed holistically. Many activities impact scheduling on the shop floor, such as equipment maintenance, people, machine availability, quality and materials, among other factors. Even the weather can play a part, impacting deliveries and shipments. Accurately capturing and applying all of this data has traditionally been a big hurdle.
  • Limitation of “batch-based” optimization, especially when confronted with a disrupted event – This is simply a limitation of the basic assumption that a computer program has to take in all information, process them as a batch and generate meaningful output after a certain time period of processing, while real world events keep changing in an ever faster pace.

A New Era?

Despite these challenges, it appears the long-sought after goal of a process-optimized shop floor might now be within reach. A key reason is that technology has advanced to the point where processing is fast enough, algorithms are good enough and scheduling systems can now keep pace with the frequent changes that occur in manufacturing operations. Some of the key technologies are:

  • Internet of Things – The technology of sensing and collecting operation activities data in real-time through tablets, cell phones, RFID, machine sensors, GPS, radars and the like has become ever more efficient.
  • Advanced algorithms – Commercially available package software now has the ability to beat academically optimized algorithm in solving optimization challenges such as traveling salesmen problem or NP-hard problems. Moreover, agent-based technology is able to collaborate in real-time with human decision without falling in the trap of “batch-based” optimization.

That leaves one problem: getting the right information into these systems so that they can schedule accurately. And it looks like this final piece of the puzzle has fallen into place, in the form of the modern Manufacturing Operations Management (MOM) system capable of collecting high-quality data about events on the shop floor and beyond, in near real-time.

Advanced MOM Solutions Can Deliver Right Information to Right Person at Right Time

With a modern Manufacturing Operations Management (MOM) solution it’s now possible to capture nearly any relevant data point related to the shop floor—from machines and processes to people and suppliers—and feed that data directly into “live” optimization systems. This capability is starting to have a big impact.

For example, optimization tools traditionally have been applied on a weekly basis – that was the best they could do. Today, those manufacturers that have invested in a new enterprise MOM solution have found that they can apply scheduling optimization to real-time events within a single shift. When something happens to disrupt the schedule—say a quality defect or machine failure—these manufacturers can immediately generate new schedules that are optimized for all the various factors involved, taking into account not only resources but also customer expectations and value.

Some skeptics might still wonder: so what? Why not rely on gut instinct and experience, as shop floor managers have always done?

Well for one thing, even if you have a skillful manager who knows how to juggle all the orders and schedules coming down the line, you can’t easily replicate that expertise and put it on your other shop floors. But you can replicate automated scheduling optimization.

Just as importantly, even a “genius” manager on the shop floor is becoming hard pressed to deal with the complexities of modern manufacturing. Product lines are much more diversified, supply chains more flexible, customers more demanding, and competitive pressures to be lean and efficient more severe.

The goal in manufacturing these days is to synchronize production with demand to reduce waste and inventory and improve efficiency. Indeed, it’s becoming an imperative. Why optimize base on a weekly bucket when you can now do so on an hourly basis? With the right systems in place, the cost to respond to a schedule change is virtually nothing – but the opportunity cost of rigidity can be quite significant.

For manufacturers that have invested in upgrading their manufacturing operations management capabilities, the answer seems clear. I expect 2015 to be a good year for shop floor real-time optimization.


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Permanent link to this article: http://www.apriso.com/blog/2015/02/real-time-operation-optimization-a-new-reality/

Feb 10 2015

Jeff Maree

Applying Lean Principles to Warehouse Management

lean_warehouse_managementChanges in manufacturing, along with globalization, are creating new challenges to those in warehouse management. Allowing stock to sit on shelves waiting for an order is no longer standard procedure. Managers are presented with many ways to operate efficiently, but may be searching for ideas on how do reduce costs.

My proposal: take a few tips from the world of Lean manufacturing, and apply them to our world of warehouse management. In other words, what can we do to remove waste from people, processes and equipment, which can then translate into lower costs? Here are a few tips that might help you with your Lean “journey” to lower warehouse costs and increase profits.

  1. Embrace the Technology

The first step in reducing warehousing costs is by making use of the technology available. Barcode or RFID labels are one method of simplifying your warehouse operations, and this lowers your costs. Barcode systems are low in cost. RFID does cost more, but offers a system of reusable tags.

If you can use RFID, you will see the greatest results. Readers can pull information from greater distances, and line of sight is not required. You can even use read/write technology. Choose the system that best meets your needs and handles the information your facility requires, including product date or build information.

This information can be converted into valuable operational intelligence, which can help you to route more efficiency pick and ship paths, as well as how to better keep track of materials as they approach obsolescence or maturity dates.

  1. Reduce the Handling

Labor is a large cost of warehouse operations. The more times one item is handled, the higher the costs associated with the item. When you multiply this by hundreds of products, you can easily see an area in which to reduce your costs.

Say you have implemented barcodes or RFID. Now, when materials come in to your warehouse, the labels should be applied on receipt. Depending on the type of facility you are operating, the labels can be applied before the materials leave production to simplify the process further. In other words, what duplicative handling processes do you currently have in your operations? This waste can be removed to bring benefits to your bottom line.

Next, get rid of the pencil and paper method of confirming products in receiving. Scan the barcode, confirm the quantity and send the product directly to its storage location. If you use the right software system, all databases can be updated at one time. Receiving, inventory control and accounts payable, if applicable, all get the same information immediately. And, removing human errors (and the corresponding time to fix) will remove wasted activities from your process.

  1. Ensure you are Using the Right Storage and Shelving Solution

Once you have simplified receiving materials, products must be stored in the most efficient manner possible. If employees are spending hours locating and retrieving items, you are losing the cost battle. By using the right inventory system, your workers can know exactly where to look for each item when placing them into storage or picking them for shipment. Programs can also be designed to group items by location, preventing hours of back-and-forth trips by employees or lift trucks.

You also need to make the best use of warehouse storage. Shelving racks are no longer a one-size-fits all application. If you have an overload of products in one location with contents spilling on to the floor, and empty racks on the other end of your warehouse, your method is not working.

customized storage solution will keep your materials organized. By using the right options, you can also eliminate the need for expanding your warehouse space. Fluctuating inventories should not create an overload. If you need to search for more space on a regular basis, you should invest in a better system.

  1. Find a Partner

A partner can be an outside warehousing solution provider or an in-house software program. Your choice greatly depends on what you need to make your warehouse work – and who can do so with the least amount of waste. If your warehouse is located far from the manufacturing center, you need the right partner for your transportation needs. Even if you maintain your own fleet, by using GPS routing technology, you can reduce the time spent getting products to your warehouse.

  1. Just in Time, Every Time

Just-in-time production and delivery of materials has been proven as a method to reduce costs. Manufacturing excess product or ordering excess materials for production ties up valuable cash flow in inventory, reduces efficiency and creates waste as part of your overall manufacturing process. Excess materials in storage add to the costs of operating a warehouse.

By working with both vendors and clients, you can establish a schedule that keeps materials and products moving into and out of a warehouse at an even rate. You will no longer face products gathering dust on a shelf. You can reduce sudden emergency production requests that cost more for the extra labor required. Admittedly, it does take some time and thought to find the balance, but finding it will reduce the costs associated with warehousing.


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Permanent link to this article: http://www.apriso.com/blog/2015/02/applying-lean-principles-to-warehouse-management/

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