Lean Manufacturing is Evolving to Its Next Stage with the Help of Technology

It has now been two whole decades since we entered the new millennium, and even longer since lean manufacturing methods were first introduced. Within this time, technology has improved to a great extent and just like everything else in business, lean too has seen some drastic improvements because of that.

The role of technology in improving lean is so intricately woven with everything today, that it’s difficult to separate the two. Nevertheless, the following should provide a fairly clear idea regarding the impact that modern, technological tools have had in improving lean manufacturing and management across the various industries.

The Role of Big Data and BI Software in Making Crucial Logistics Related Decisions

Big data is information, and collecting large sets of uncategorized information alone isn’t enough. Modern business intelligence tools that also categorize the collected data to provide a comprehensive picture of the entire supply chain are instrumental for logistics heads to streamline every step in their supply chain management system. The following should provide an idea regarding the kind of benefits we are discussing here:

  • Supply chain analytics to identify steps that can be eliminated
  • Route optimization in real time to avoid traffic, closed roads and other obstacles
  • Entire manufacturing – delivery network can be reevaluated and optimized to identify and eliminate waste
  • Matching products/services with customer demands to reduce chances of waste and loss
  • Reevaluation of operational capacity
  • Environmental intel for avoiding conflicts
  • Market intelligence and address verification

In fact, big data and its proper categorization/interpretation is directly or indirectly related to streamlining almost every other operational aspect of supply chain management.

Tracking of Products/Assets Through Manufacturing and Delivery

RFID and barcode scanning are the two main types of tech that are used in the industry today for tracking assets/products, and they play huge roles in eliminating unnecessary expenses and wastage of time. Some of those effects can be summarized as below.

  • Saves time and speeds up the workflow
  • Going digital shrinks capital expenses
  • Portable scanners and smartphone apps make it a seamless process on the go
  • Inventory management becomes naturally more efficient
  • Real time tracking decreases the need for paperwork, contributing to saving time and money
  • Automated tracking frees up employees, increasing the unit’s productive capacity
  • Real time, asset tracking platforms keep everyone from factory managers to delivery partners transparent and aware
  • Automation eliminates the human error factor completely
  • Automation also eliminates chances of internal fraud or theft

Availability of Online Lean Manufacturing Education: Wider Adoption

The main issue with adopting lean manufacturing techniques on a widescale was always the fact that very few people actually had the expertise to do so. Not that lean management training wasn’t available before, but prior to the easy availability of online lean manufacturing degree courses, it couldn’t be as easily accessed as it can be today.

Furthermore, faster internet speeds, better hardware, availability of powerful smartphones and education-oriented web design have all contributed immensely in making online education in general what it is now. Today, modern courses such as the online lean manufacturing degree program available at the Kettering University, has made it possible for nearly anyone to join a top quality lean manufacturing course from anywhere in the world.

Not only are these courses designed to educate managers, employees and even business owners about the basics of lean, but these also teach them how to integrate and utilize the various helpful software tools for improving performance and reducing costs.

As more people around the globe will soon become increasingly aware of the benefits that come with adopting lean techniques, the situation will improve for forming seamless business connections across various connected industries within or outside the borders.

Predictive Analytics to Reduce Misdirection of Resources

It shouldn’t be too hard to figure out why lean management techniques can benefit from predictive analytics. Forecasting with near accurate predictions is what modern, AI-powered predictive analytics data is mainly about. When decision makers have a defined idea regarding what to expect in the near future, they can take steps accordingly and prevent the following:

  • Overproduction: Wastage of resources
  • Underproduction: Wastage of revenue generation potential

It also gives leaders the ability to funnel and redirect resources as necessary, for meeting upcoming changes in the market with the best possible outcomes.

Demand forecasting is a part or a subset of predictive analytics, but PA is much more comprehensive than that. To put it simply, predictive analysis is an advanced tool for industrial preparation that decreases the chances of waste and loss, while improving chances of better revenue generation and increased profit margins. Some of the main revolutionary advantages of predictive analysis outside of demand forecasting are as follows:

  • Competitive advantage by gaining access to crucial customer data
  • Pattern recognition for detecting fraudulent activities
  • Lean marketing, because desired products and effective marketing methods are predicted
  • Setting goals realistically to remove chances of overinvesting

The Lean Manufacturing and Management Tools

Finally, there’s the direct connection between lean and digital, or rather, the digitization of lean via software. Papers, boards, pins, etc. are no longer needed, because improved versions of all these traditional tools are now available as cloud synced, transparent software. Whether it’s Six Sigma, Kanban, Kaizen, Agile or any other direct or indirect lean method that a company implements, software tools have the following advantages over their traditional counterparts:

  • Reduction of waste and cost by eliminating paper, pen, boards, and all other physical materials
  • A single, cloud synced platform allows real time access and updates to anyone, anywhere (with authorization)
  • They are compatible with even smartphones and tablets, adding portability to lean
  • The features of a lean manufacturing software are so much more intricate than traditional formats

There is an innate and natural connection between modern tech and lean methods, which is why they work so well together. The core idea behind lean manufacturing and management is reduction of waste through elimination of unnecessary steps. Technology at its core, is also meant to simplify, solve and speed up, which makes it a natural ally of lean techniques.

Lean methods will continue to evolve further with the help of technology, because it was always an idea which was designed to thrive more with the advent of modern tech.

James Daniels is a freelance writer, business enthusiast, a bit of a tech buff, and an overall geek. He is also an avid reader, who can while away hours reading and knowing about the latest gadgets and tech, whilst offering views and opinions on these topics.

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