ICI's Actuator & Valve Industry Blog

Is Your Automation Process Lean?

Posted on Mon, Apr 07, 2014

Lean manufacturing is based on finding efficiencies and removing wasteful steps that don't add value to the product. No need to reduce quality, the cuts are a result of finding better, more efficient ways of accomplishing the same tasks. Henry Ford is considered the first one to implement Lean Manufacturing. He applied the concept of "continuous flow", keeping production standards extremely tight, so each stage of the process fitted together perfectly with the next one. This led to very little waste. In terms of electric actuators, here are 4 questions to help you think about cutting down waste and improving production.

Indelac Lean Actuator System

4 Questions to ask yourself

What is your current automation system worth?

Each industrial process is unique and has its own pros and cons. These attributes may also vary depending on companies and what they are focused on, but it is safe to say that if you're using a hydraulic or pneumatic automated package, or even an inappropriate/malfunctioning electric actuator system, a leaner production process can be carried out.

How much resources is maintenance eating up?

How much maintenance is enough? Not only does excess preventive and predictive maintenance waste manpower and time, it can also cause you to have more breakdowns. A study by Corio & Costantini showed that within 1 week after maintenance the risks of failure are 5 times higher than usual. When a manufacturer sees the increase in time spent on maintenance, they might want to cut down on the amount of hours spent. Instead of cutting hours, find the origin of the problem and implement new more reliable actuators. Also, other actuator systems and old electric actuator systems, might require more maintenance than a new one.

How much waste is too much waste?

This is a typical lean question. Most of the time, when there is an excess of physical waste-material, it's easy to see what you can cut down on. Unseen wastes are more difficult to spot in a plant, like compressed air. It can severely impact a lean process. Waste compressed air translates into costs that get passed onto the customer, and they might just take their business somewhere else if they can get a better price or service. Electric systems cut down on the amount of compressed air used. Another example with hydraulic actuators, what to do with oil when it has run its course? Recycling used oil is time consuming and costly.

Can your production process be simpler?

Lean manufacturing is always associated at some point with the 5S Philosophy (Sort, Systematize, Sweep, Standardize & Self-Discipline).  This workplace organization method combines perfectly with the use of electric valve on a process line because of their efficiency and relative simplicity. The fewer the number of parts, the simpler and smoother the operation is running. Finally, it makes it easier for regular maintenance and eventual troubleshooting.

Indelac Lean Actuator Manufacturing

Below is Indelac 5s Checklist, part of the effort to become a leaner manufacturer.

Indelac 5S Lean Manufacturing   Go Green

Indelac has been involved in lean manufacturing for several years now and in 2013 ICI has been awarded with KPPC Environmental Sustainability (ES). KPPC has presented the ES awards in conjunction with National Pollution Prevention (P2) Week since 2009 to recognize Kentucky companies that have demonstrated a commitment to the principles of sustainability.

Those principles include:

  • Taking responsibility for the social well-being of employees and the community as a whole
  • Achieving economic benefits
  • Practicing environmental stewardship

Indelac began working with KPPC and the Alabama Technology Network (ATN) in 2012 to conduct a joint training/assessment event as part of the Kentucky E3 Initiative.

Kentucky E3 – Economy, Energy, and Environment – is a coordinated federal and local technical assistance initiative to help small and medium-size manufacturers adapt and thrive in a business era focused on sustainability. The assessment and training were designed to identify opportunities and develop an Action Plan in the areas of lean production, energy conservation and waste minimization.

Since the initial assessment, Indelac has created a cross-functional team that reviews and implements continuous improvement suggestions from management and staff. The team strives to implement Lean, Green and Clean recommendations and identify new ideas in a continual improvement cycle.

The ES Award recognizes Indelac's sustainability efforts which demonstrate the company's commitment to environmental stewardship and continual improvement.

 

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