Traditional production environments have tended to rely too heavily on fabricated or big-budget equipment that is difficult and expensive to adapt or replace once it has been installed. It is now time to embrace change.
Introducing lean can help make significant improvements with stock control. A key aim of lean – now more widely understood in general manufacturing – is that materials should only be brought into the production area when they are needed and taken away as soon as possible after the work has been completed.
In lean plants the aim is typically to minimise inventory levels without affecting the ability for continuous material flow. This often involves delivering items in and out of production areas using live storage facilities or custom made carts.
Replenishment and collection tasks are carried out frequently and on-demand to ensure an undisrupted flow of materials. Storage equipment can be configured to specific handling requirements and built to optimise the use of the available space, never too much, never too little.
Space can be saved on the shop floor that can then be used for additional value-adding processes. The amount of inventory tied up as ‘work in progress’ is generally also minimised which releases cash for use elsewhere in the business.
The ability to introduce change whenever improvements are required allows production engineers to approach their tasks from a totally new perspective. Although they will still need to make careful plans for the initial installations, there is no need for this to be the end. Instead, it is simply the starting point on a journey of continuous improvement that can be implemented in part with modular storage, handling and workstation facilities.