Lean Manufacturing with Industrial Automation

industrial robotics engineer

Though it has seen recently renewed popularity, the lean approach is not new to manufacturing. The guiding principles include minimizing waste, getting products to market efficiently and continuously finding ways to improve. When companies are striving to adopt leaner processes, automation can often provide solutions.

How can industrial automation help your manufacturing organization?

Flexibility

In lean, one of the primary goals is to reduce and eliminate defects, excess inventory, and waste in areas like transportation and human effort. Not only can automation mean less material waste but it can also decrease the overall time needed to make a product. Flexible systems are growing in demand, as opposed to fixed workstation equipment. This provides greater ability for fine tuning as product specs evolve.

Processes like spot welding used to require several stops along a conveyor so different robots can apply different parts along the way. Now robots use vision guidance to find the correct part and install it, reducing conveyance and using less effort to finish a process.

The same applies to your internal software systems; that means finding modular tools that integrate with other systems. If your team is on a legacy or homegrown system it often means creating a strategy to move one module or one team at a time to a more flexible, cloud-based system. Taking the right approach will ensure that this is a necessary and worthwhile investment.

Adaptability

Retailers today are expected to deliver goods quickly and from any location to stay competitive. Creating large distribution centers has become a norm to meet demands. As a result, packaging come in all shapes and sizes, requiring smart, adaptable automated systems.

Material Handling (loading/unloading, for example) is an area that has seen plenty of opportunities to embrace automation. This allows companies to automate solutions at the pinch points during times of high demand, as well as minimize tasks that typically have high rates of injury.

Customers today expect close to realtime tracking updates on their shipments, which often means the team needs access on-the-go (mobile). As our production line gets smarter, we want our internal software tools to be on board.

Scalability

Though automated systems can be an asset to growth, the people who work for a company are invaluable. An organization can’t succeed without a skilled and committed team.

One of the first steps towards leaner processes is leveraging your team’s power of observation. Employees need to feel comfortable pointing out that part of the process is less than ideal without being afraid of the consequences. This can help identify areas that have the most common value, which can help build long-term trust in the direction of leadership.


Poise your team to be more flexible and adaptable in your tooling. Stay informed to leverage new trends in automation. Talk about long-term strategy with team leaders. If your long-term strategy means new tools, start now with Ascend.