High-speed production lines can support Lean ideals.
Lean, or low waste, manufacturing became a popular business trend at the hands of Japanese automobile maker Toyota. But it’s a concept that’s not easy to translate into the volatile, micro-stop world of high-speed production. Simply trying to apply Lean concepts developed for a slow moving line to a fast production line that sees several hundred items per minute can have disastrous results.
A micro-stop strategy is a critical element.
High-speed lines commonly use components that are prone to stoppages — corrugate, shrink wrap and thin plastic. Even on a highly functional line, failures will occur approximately every five hours. Allowing for these stoppages means determining and understanding how to effectively implement buffers. With an efficient buffer, operators can deal with a jam while the line continues to run. That means only an abnormal condition will stop an efficiently buffered high-speed line.
Adding buffers is the key to applying Lean in high-speed environments.
The appropriate buffer can be calculated in a number of ways. For a line with normal material variance, a close look at Mean Time to Recover, time analysis or simulations can all lead to development of a right-size buffer. While buffers challenge traditional Lean concepts, they pale in comparison to the cost of an inefficient, non-buffered high-speed line.