Eliminating waste in assembly lines

Jon Lawson

Andy Owen explains how businesses of all sizes can take a lean approach to boost productivity

Health consciousness is on the rise. With trending superfoods like avocado in our smoothies and on our toast, consumers no longer want to live the rock and roll lifestyle, rather find a healthy balance.

Lean manufacturing is a systematic method that follows the Japanese principle of kaizen, which looks to eliminate muda, or waste, in a manufacturing system.

In this type of setting, anything created in the manufacturing process that does not add value to the final product is considered waste.

The goal for lean manufacturing is to provide perfect value for each customer.

Organising your working environment to reduce waste helps you better manage your employees, equipment and workspace in a way that allows you to respond rapidly to customer behaviour.

For smaller businesses, many operations managers have limited resources to roll out lean manufacturing initiatives, which have traditionally been quite costly.

It's important to understand that a lean approach is not about making a single substantial change to your plant at great cost, rather it is about making a commitment to continuous, incremental improvement, no matter how small.

One way to make this change is by reducing the amount of non-value added time staff spend completing unproductive tasks, such as waiting around for items to be moved from one production line to another.

Traditional equipment such as forklifts require the user to have a license to use one safely. This means that many employees must wait for a licensed forklift operator to become available before they can handle heavy objects.

A leaner alternative to this is to use a pedestrian operated electric tug.

For example, MasterMover's electric tugs allow a single pedestrian operator to move a heavy object, or multiple cages of products, of up to 1,200kg. This eliminates the need to wait for a licensed operator and therefore reduces wasted time.

Small improvements like these have a substantial impact on the overall productivity of a production line.

By following the lean principle, smaller companies can use lean manufacturing to improve productivity at a gradual and sustainable pace.

Just like making the decision to add more avocado into your diet, it only takes one switch to start you on the way to a new, leaner, you.

Andy Owen is managing director of electric tug specialist MasterMover.

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