Lean manufacturing 4.0

Smart Lean and Smart Six Sigma, including their many different names, are on the rise. Smart Industry is making Lean increasingly more flexible. The innovations vary from automated vehicles to augmented reality and factories that almost think for themselves. In addition, there are co-robots, who make operators smarter, stronger and faster. Rigid production lanes are replaced by flexible production hub, or even miniature factories that deliver custom work at mass-good rates.

The benefits of Smart Industry will not only create a more flexible application of Lean. It will also facilitate the process improvements as well. This way, humans and computers focus on improvements side by side. So far, these developments haven’t been in the limelight much. That is about to change, because Lean manufacturing 4.0 is here!

Back to basics: Lean

The basic idea of Lean has come a long way since Ford and Toyota implemented it about a hundred years ago. Leading companies have made their pipeline Lean across their entire chain of production. Lean production networks remind us of rivers that originate at different locations, including the suppliers. Everywhere down-stream, value adding activities join up with the river in a timely, flowing way. This way, products are completed in a steady rhythm. The end result is a steady flow of products that reaches a ‘sea’ of customers. Quite efficient, but there are limitations. For one, a Lean production chain is only as strong as its weakest link. Also, only a limited amount of variants of the basic model can be created. This makes a Lean pipeline inflexible.

Adding flexibility with Smart Industry techniques

Enter Smart Industry, moving the Lean philosophy into the new Lean manufacturing 4.0. Its influence is gaining more and more traction across most, if not all, industries. It is therefore only logical that smart techniques like digitalisation, robotisation and artificial intelligence are used to make Lean production more flexible. The goal here is to make it easier to produce more differentiated products or new products. Traditional Lean pipelines struggle to pivot and navigate when the product regularly changes, but Smart Industry is helping the Lean behemoth to become nimble again.

Ever changing routes

One of the ideas within Lean manufacturing 4.0 is to no longer rigidly connect workstations in factories anymore. This makes it much easier to change the routes within a factory, depending on the ‘material requirements’ of the product. This is also known as cellular production.

The mastermind: a Lean manufacturing 4.0 example

In addition to and because of cellular production, products can even decide their own route through the factory. How, would you ask? Well, by putting semi-finished products on automatic vehicles. These transport them between work stations. The factory itself becomes the ‘mastermind’ of the entire operation, telling the vehicles where to go for the next production step. It also makes sure there are no congestions by keeping an eye on each workstation. This prevents them from getting overloaded with work.

More to come

Above are just some examples and visualisations of how Lean manufacturing 4.0 can benefit industries and factories across the globe. We’re quite excited! Would you like to learn more about Lean in particular or Lean Six Sigma as a whole? Take a look at the courses we offer, or let us know if you have any more questions. We are glad to help.

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