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The Lean Benchmark Report

Lean Specialty/MES Solutions

Lean Specialty and MES solutions play an important role in the daily operations of many Lean manufacturers, particularly in high-volume or highly complex production environ- ments. These solutions are designed to publish weekly schedules and daily sequences; to manage the flow of product; and consistently collect shop floor data relative to material flow, process and component traceability, resource performance, and quality conditions. They are often supported by barcode and wireless technologies, and combined with elec- tronic Kanbans, sending triggers upstream and to suppliers as materials are consumed.

MES operator control panels can deliver pokayoke (a Japanese term for ”mistake- proofing” and refers to any mechanism, device, or procedure that precludes inadvertent error) capabilities to operators. For example, JR Spring and Stamping has technology- enabled and integrated pokayoke into the daily lives of its operators; they use the Plexus Online operator control panel to validate orders before they go into production by enforc- ing the setup, ensuring inventory availability, verifying that selected operators have re- ceived the correct training, and ensuring that all needed tooling is accessible. This solu- tion also facilitates root cause analysis and corrective action, including a formalized process for issues notification and problem resolution reporting that extends back to the supplier base.

Lean Specialty and MES solutions are also helping to further the Lean culture. For ex- ample, prior to going Lean, a leading automotive part facility held meetings each Friday to determine how much overtime would be required to catch up on work not completed during the past week so they could “clear the decks” for Monday. Simultaneously, weekly production meetings were focused on analyzing MRP orders sent from headquar- ters to determine which ones could be produced over the next five to seven days (based on on-hand inventory and equipment availability). In all production-related meetings, managers and operators contributed departmental and individual data, leading to lively but disconnected and contentious discussions. Several months ago, the company imple- mented an MES solution to integrate and rationalize data across departments. Today a “single version of the truth” is displayed on an electronic dashboard and used to drive weekly meetings (on a Pelion dashboard); “a single version of the truth” enables teams to display requirements by day, part, process, shift, and order number. As a result, manufac- turing is now more forward thinking; production meetings are more results-oriented; and overtime has been reduced by 70%.

Frequent Product Launches and the Need for Integrated Processes

Moving forward, the importance of maintaining a digital model of Lean processes will become increasingly critical. More frequent product launches are driving the need to more quickly modify line design, simulate process flow, and re-optimize key control points (e.g. kanban sizes, supermarkets, Takt time) to ensure rapid and accurate change- overs and restarts. Ensuring quality products and processes requires a closer alignment between engineering and manufacturing than exists in many companies today. A notable and favorable exception is Lockheed Martin. The division that we spoke with is highly disciplined (single bill of material across all functions) and has tightly integrating its PDM system with SAP (i.e. supply chain, quality, inspection, delivery, labor, collection, cost accounting). Throughout manufacturing, operators use SAP production orders to record the performance of each operation; and if an anomaly is detected, engineering is

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