Posts

Kanban & Lean Manufacturing: Are They Relevant Today: Part 1

While there is no such thing as “the perfect production system”, Kanban is an uncomplicated yet effective system for creating products.

What is Kanban and Lean?

The word “Kanban” is of Japanese origin and literally translates to “signal card.” Its literal meaning is that of a flag or sign, when you see that flag you know that it is time to manufacture the next part. Kanbans can take many forms, but in most production facilities, they will use Kanban cards or bins to control the process.

Kanban is a visual manufacturing production scheduling system for lean manufacturing and just-in-time (JIT) manufacturing. As part of a pull system, it controls what is produced, in what quantity, and when. The goal of Kanban is to identify potential bottlenecks in your process and fix them so work can flow through it cost-effectively at an optimal speed or throughput. With Kanban, you only produce what the customer is asking for and nothing more. It is a system of signals that are used through the value stream to pull product from customer demand back to raw materials. A Kanban system ideally controls the entire value chain from the supplier to the end consumer. In this way, it helps avoid supply disruption and overstocking of goods at various stages of the manufacturing process.

Lean manufacturing or lean production involves the minimization of waste within a manufacturing system without sacrificing productivity. So Kanban is a method of lean manufacturing. 83% of teams practicing Lean use Kanban to visualize and actively manage their work.

The Origins of Kanban

In the past, shopkeepers had to retrieve each customer’s items

Interestingly, Lean Manufacturing and the Kanban concept all have their origins starting with the American grocery store chain, Piggly Wiggly in Memphis Tennessee, back in the 1940s.

If you were to travel back in time to the early 1900’s, you would see products stacked on high wall-shelves behind the main counter. Products were retrieved for you buy a man standing behind the counter who was known as the “store clerk.” Women, who did all of the shopping, would bring in their grocery lists, and the Clerk would gather and assemble all of their items.

But it was Piggly Wiggly, the first true self-service grocery store, that changed the way people shopped for food. Instead of putting the burden on the shopkeeper to retrieve each customer’s items, the customers were given the opportunity to peruse the aisles and pick out whichever goods they wished.

The Piggly Wiggly at 79 Jefferson Avenue, in Memphis Tennessee opened the first supermarket, changing the grocery retail business forever

And the shopkeepers’ new responsibilities? Instead of dealing with each individual customer’s needs, they now monitored the shelves, restocking items when the “signal card” or the signal—an empty shelf—appeared. Once they saw the signal, they’d simply go to the storeroom to refill the shelf. It’s basically still the same method you see in grocery stores today. Where they might have had a few hundred items in the 1930’s, your average supermarket these days keeps over 42,000 items in stock. Each item has a place. When one is removed and its barcode scanned, an electronic record is kept, inventory levels monitored, and items are reordered and restocked based on a maximum amount of space available. So if a shelf holds ten gallons of milk, you stock to the maximum quantity stockable.

From Tennessee Grocery Stores to Japanese Factory Floors

Kanban and lean manufacturing freepoint technologies

Taiichi Ohno, Industrial Engineer, and Father of the Toyota Production System

During the 1950’s, Toyota engineers and executives paid a visit to Dearborn, Michigan to Ford’s River Rouge Factory. At the time Ford and GM were the largest automakers in the world and Toyota was not even a blip on the radar. After the visit, Toyota concluded that while Ford was massive in size and impressive, Toyota didn’t have the resources to match Ford’s production. So Toyota sought out another manufacturing method.

Just-in-Time (JIT) was implemented and designed at Toyota by Taiichi Ohno who took over 15 years to perfect their system. During the 1970’s many western visitors would bring back Kanban cards and want to implement the systems within their own manufacturing facilities, often with little real understanding of how they worked. It was not until the 1980’s that Kanban control really started to be understood in the West. In American supermarkets like the Piggly Wiggly, that Toyota managers discovered a different set of tools to govern their manufacturing processes: tight control over inventory quantities and storage space, and a better way to get service to the end-user (the milk rack). This was the origin of the material pull system. When you wander into any modern grocery store today, you are seeing the Kanban system in action.

When implementing factory floor solutions, choose a technology partner who understands lean manufacturing and knows how to enhance your technology solutions. At FreePoint Technologies, our team will ensure your plant has everything it needs to meet your demands and more. Contact us to learn more today.

____________

Join us in Part 2 of this blog series where we answer the question, “Are Lean Manufacturing and Kanban still relevant?”

FreePoint Named One of Manufacturing Technology Insights Top Industrial IoT Solution Providers of 2019

Manufacturing Technology Insights IIOT Top Logo

FreePoint Technologies is excited to announce that we have been named one of Manufacturing Technology Insights Top 10 Industrial IoT Solution Providers of 2019.

Manufacturing Technology Insights discussed how FreePoint is helping manufacturing organizations discover and achieve their true operational potential through IoT.

Referencing our ShiftWorx Platform, our CEO John Traynor explained how the “Visualization of real-time data triggers the Hawthorne Effect and supports collaboration among management and workers to use equipment for maximum efficiency.” As the article outlines, many manufacturers aren’t sure where to start with IoT, especially as they consider connecting new and old equipment. It’s better to start simple, by building a foundation to collect leverage data.

Using non-invasive sensors, FreePoint is able to connect to new and legacy machines to give greater visibility into shop floor performance and help contextualize that data to identify and improve performance issues and engage operators and management.

Read the full article to learn more about how FreePoint is helping to revolutionize the manufacturing industry.

2019 Canadian Tooling and Machining Association’s Annual General Meeting

As a proud member of the Canadian Tool and Machining Association (CTMA), FreePoint is excited to again be attending the Annual General Meeting (AGM) in London, Ontario. The Annual General Meeting is always a great opportunity to learn about the association’s accomplishments over the past year, while also setting the stage for the years to come. We’re looking forward to hearing what is sure to be an insightful and inspiring Keynote Address by Scott Kress and can’t wait to congratulate this year’s Apprentice Award Recipients.

The CTMA represents Canadian tooling manufacturers at various levels of government and works together with other associations to promote and protect the interests of the overall manufacturing industry.

If you’re a tooling and machining manufacturer within Canada, you should consider reaching out to the CTMA to become a part of this rewarding community.

FreePoint Featured in CIO Applications Top 10 Manufacturing Solution Providers

Top 10 Digital Manufacturing Solution Providers 2019

FreePoint Technologies is proud to announce that we have been featured in CIO Applications’ Top 10 Digital Manufacturing Solution Providers.

Our Senior Vice President, John Traynor, sat down with CIO Applications to discuss how FreePoint differentiates itself while addressing the needs of manufacturers and ensuring the security of their data.

Referencing our ShiftWorx Platform, John explained how we “enable operators to monitor machine performance in real time and document any shortcomings with the click of a button or the tap of a screen”, while maintaining a lower cost than most competitors. As the article outlines, the ShiftWorx platform is installed non-invasively and can take as little as 30 minutes to set up, making it easy to retrofit onto any machine, and keeping implementation costs low.

By avoiding physical connections between ShiftWorx and the machines, FreePoint can mitigate the risk of cyber-attacks:

“FreePoint’s non- invasive solution involves using sensors instead of attaching hardware to a programmable logic controller (PLC). The solution does not interfere with machine operations nor is it a vector for cyber-attacks on the machinery.”

Read the article for yourself to learn more about how FreePoint is helping to revolutionize the manufacturing industry.