Technologies to Help You Optimize Your Lean Processes

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Increasing pressure on the supply chain and manufacturing sector has led logistics and manufacturing companies to adopt lean principles. These strategies help managers and analysts find more opportunities to reduce waste and use existing resources efficiently.

Here are some of the best technologies to help supply chain and manufacturing organizations optimize your lean processes

Data Collection and Big Data Analytics

Industries use IoT data collection schemes, often combined with big data or AI-based analytics, to optimize business operations. In manufacturing and the supply chain, industrial IoT can boost lean processes by automating systems and providing managers with better information.

IoT sensors can provide better information about energy consumption. Many manufacturers and logistics companies rely on usage tests conducted at regular intervals to see how much power they use and where they spend it. Because these tests are labor-intensive, they can only happen so often. As a result, they’ll merely provide a snapshot at a specific time of day. Site managers can’t see how use changes over a day, week or more. They may also miss energy spikes or other irregularities that occur in between tests.

IoT-based energy data collection schemes can change this. Sensors attached to relevant equipment can provide real-time information on energy usage. With this data, managers can clearly see how consumption changes based on factors like time of day or the task at hand. They’ll also have immediate notification of irregularities. If energy spikes at a certain time of day drive up resource consumption, an IoT energy tracking scheme will likely catch them.

IoT sensors can also reduce factory overproduction. In food manufacturing, for instance, IoT digitizes data related to overproduction and food waste in real-time. This improved access to information can then inform new processes and staff training on resource consumption. In one example, an IoT system at a prepared meals factory provided data that plant managers used to reduce the generation of food waste by 60.7% within nine months of adoption.

Fleet Management Systems and Predictive Maintenance

Fleet management solutions and GPS vehicle tracking tools are essential for logistics companies that want to optimize their vehicle fleets’ resource usage.

These tools offer route optimization and management features that allow logistics companies to cut back on fuel spend by suggesting more efficient pathways and tracking of driver behavior, like unnecessary idling. According to research, companies that adopt these tools increase miles per minute of idling by 55% within two months.

Predictive maintenance strategies — which use data from IoT sensors to forecast when machines and vehicles need support— can be similarly useful in getting the most use out of equipment.

Sensors that detect the signs of machine failure or irregular operation — like unusual vibration, operating temperatures or timing — allow for maintenance that can prevent total machine failure. These tools prevent costly downtime and more expensive repair costs. With regular maintenance scheduling, it’s possible for signs of imminent failure to fall through the cracks. With an IoT-based predictive strategy, however, potential risks get caught immediately, allowing the fastest possible response and lowest chance of waste.

RFID, IoT and Bluetooth Asset Tracking

Using RFID, IoT and other systems, lean factories and logistics companies can track assets in real time, providing immediate access to location information. This technology can both streamline warehouse workflows and reduce the risk of lost or misdirected assets.

With real-time tracking in place, a manufacturer can respond immediately if, for example, a shipment of raw materials heads in the wrong direction. By intervening as quickly as possible, the organization can reduce the risk of lost time and energy spent as a result of a mistake in the supply chain. On the flip side, a company without real-time solutions has no such data and will learn about the shipment failing to arrive on schedule. As a result, it’s ability to deliver goods is severely impeded.

For manufacturers that must maintain certain conditions while products are in transit, this technology can be a boon. For instance, track-and-trace sensors can monitor temperature, humidity and other factors. For items such as fresh food, which will only last for several days, the collected data can ensure the shipment doesn’t submit to temperature stress or unsanitary environments. Despite multiple participants and shipments changing hands quickly, these sensors can gather information and automatically feed it into a blockchain. If something goes wrong, this data can pinpoint who’s at fault.

Automated asset tracking can also significantly reduce the time needed to maintain inventory records compared to manual asset tracking and restocking. Traditionally, warehouse workers had to keep track of which items were present in a warehouse. Now, however, factories can shift employees dedicated to asset tracking to more essential tasks, such as equipment maintenance or analysis, reducing unnecessary labor spending.

Improving Lean Processes With the Right Technology

Lean processes that look to cut back on waste and optimize resource usage can improve with the right technological solutions in place, such as big data analytics, predictive maintenance and real-time asset tracking. For most lean manufacturers and logistics companies, better data collection will be vital to improving lean principles.

The technology above can provide information with a high level of detail on most steps of the manufacturing and shipping process. This data, when leveraged by analysts and management, can increase energy and fuel efficiency, reduce risk, optimize equipment maintenance and free up allocated workers.

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