Out Front with Bob Henry

The Evolution of Lean

Lean manufacturing has been undergoing an evolution in North American manufacturing. It doesn’t matter how your company defines lean. Lean is and always will be about eliminating waste. Many manufacturing companies today have come to realize that waste can be dealt with in more ways than just charts and graphs. Technology can play a significant role, and lean principles can be applied to improve production efficiency and even flexibility.

In this issue of Competitive Production, we discuss how introducing lean technology, such as flexible pallet handling systems (MMC2), brings more than a physical change to a shop—it can transform the shop’s culture.

Everyone understands the benefits of a flexible pallet handling system as it pertains to waste reduction—amortization of workpiece and tool setups, reduction of WIP, reduction of finished goods inventory, and reduction/ redeployment of labor. However, most don’t know that a flexible system can positively influence a shop’s entire process, including how labor is utilized, how materials are purchased, how parts are fixtured, how tools are managed, and how your shop employees interact with one another. These benefits apply in high-product mix, low-volume production environments, but also benefit mid- to high-volume, low-mix environments as well.

MacKay Manufacturing experienced the culture change of a flexible pallet handling system by implementing two Makino Machining Complexes (MMC2). Their MMC2s allowed them to reduce setup time to virtually nothing, redeploy skilled employees, open communication among departments, and win new contracts—all while strengthening their bottom line.

Sandy Bay Machine also implemented a flexible manufacturing system, a Makino MMC2. They produce small batches of tighttolerance aerospace and medical components using their cell of Makino horizontal machining centers, while still having the ability to make customer changes to parts and quantities at a moment’s notice.

Apex Precision Technologies utilizes large horizontal machining centers to quickly produce kanban quantities of parts for demanding customers. The flexibility and rigidity of the machines allow them to use combination tooling and custom fixtures to speed production times and produce parts with fewer setups and tool changes. It also allows them to keep their customers happy with flexible quantities and constant innovation on how the parts can be more efficiently produced.

No matter the type or quantity of parts your shop manufactures or the challenges your shop faces, lean yet flexible manufacturing methods permit you to get the most out of your people and your capital equipment. Makino’s machine tools and flexible manufacturing systems have assisted in the lean goals of hundreds of shops. If your shop is considering taking your lean initiative to the next level, we’d be glad to help.

Contact Bob Henry at:
Phone: 513-573-7425
Fax: 513-573-7456
E-mail: [email protected]