Journalists and other authors who should know better routinely conflate productivity increase with automation and automation with the introduction of robots. “Productivity” covers a set of performance metrics that are increased by a variety of methods, many of which do not involve automation. Automation sometimes increases productivity, but not always. Finally, most of the time, automation does not involve robots. At last Tuesday’s Palo Alto Lean Coffee, I asked Tesla’s Omar Guerrero and Genentech’s Curtis Anderson for examples of changes that had increased productivity in their organizations.
“Motion and transportation count among the 7 basic muda or wastes, that should be eliminated or at least reduced to their bare minimum in order to be leaner.
Now, with the probable rise of robotics, will robotic motion (and transportation) still be considered a waste?”
Sourced through Chris Hohmann’s blog
Michel Baudin‘s comments: It’s a valid question, but one that should be asked about handling and transportation automation in general, not just robots. It is also one that is not properly answered with the simplistic theory of value and waste that has been reiterated in the English-language literature on Lean for 20 years.
Jidoka (自働化) isn’t just “stop and fix” or “stop and call.” It is a complete approach to automation that includes building in the ability of a machine to stop when it malfunctions but also includes many other things. Sakichi Toyoda’s Type-G loom didn’t just stop when the yarn broke, it also had automatic shuttle change, which reduced the need for human intervention in its normal operations, and was a breakthrough that had eluded everybody else.
“More robots means lower unemployment and better trade performance. […] The United States does not lose jobs because there is not enough work to be done but rather because U.S. industry is not competitive with foreign producers. More robots will help fix this.”
It doesn’t mean robots are bad, only that they are not a panacea. Toyota’s Global Body Line is designed to use welding robots where they are justified, and manual welding where not, using the same fixtures.
In an auto parts plant in Japan, I remember seeing a machining cell with old machines served by robots. A few yards away were new, automated lines that didn’t use robots.
It looked very much as if the old cell with new robots was the result of incremental automation, and that the lessons learned had been applied in the design of the new lines.
Robots are tools. If you know how to use them, they will help you; if you don’t, buying more is just a waste of money.
See on Scoop.it – lean manufacturing
“Inside Toyota Motor Corp.’s oldest plant, there’s a corner where humans have taken over from robots in thwacking glowing lumps of metal into crankshafts. This is Mitsuru Kawai’s vision of the future…”
According to the article, Toyota’s management feels that maintaining the know-how to make parts manually is essential to be able to improve automated processes.
See on www.bloomberg.com
See on Scoop.it – lean manufacturing
“…Automation has long been a central tenet of lean. It is in the automation versus labor cost issue where conflict arises. Toyota spends a lot of time thinking about and working on jidoka – automation with a human touch. In a nutshell, it means investing in automation to enhance human capability, rather than replace it…”
One of the rare articles in English where Toyota’s jidoka is accurately portrayed as a complete — and effective — automation strategy, rather than reduced to the notion of machines that stop when they malfunction. As Bill recognizes, there is more to it than that.
See on www.idatix.com
In a discussion in the TPS + 1 SENSEI group on LinkedIn, Casey Ng drew my attention to a materials handling approach from Kiva Systems, a company started up in Boston in 2003 by engineer/MBA Mick Mountz with funding from Bain Capital, that is now a wholly-owned subsidiary of Amazon. The following is a promotional video from Youtube:
The system shown in the video is clever, and can certainly be useful in fulfilling Amazon orders or in kit picking for assembly, but it is also obviously not a panacea. It only supports a single-level of racks, and boxes or bins that can be lifted by people. If you wanted to use the overhead space for storage, you might combine it with a classical automatic storage and retrieval system, which would move the portable racks to and from from upper levels for further handling on the ground by the Kiva pods.
Bringing materials to an operator at a fixed location rather than have the operator travel to do the picking is what is also attempted by carousels, but carousels require the operator to wait up to a half-turn for the right slot to be presented, and are limited in the number of items they can carry.
As shown in the video, while the concept is innovative in terms of storage and retrieval, it does not stretch hardware technology. As we see on the video, we see the operator who loads boxes onto racks for putaway use devices that look like the ones used in restaurants like The Cheesecake Factory or the Fish Market to notify waiting customers that their tables are ready. The pods look like giant Roombas, but move in a more restricted manner. According to Mick Mountz, the pods just move around the grid of small squares marked on the floor with optical guidance and a simple form of “after-you” system to avoid collisions. On the video, auto-ID seems to be based on plain old barcodes. There is no mention of RFID or even QR-codes. The actual transfer of boxes is manual, with a form of pick-to-light guidance. While less visible, the software that coordinates all the moving parts is clearly at the core of this system.
I learned of Kiva’s existence this morning, and have no relationship with this company.
This article from Industry Week suggests that for Toyota to use high technology in Manufacturing is something new or a departure from its traditional system. It presents the Assembly Line Control (ALC) system as something new, when it has been in existence since at least the early 1990s.
We should not forget that even Ohno described jidoka as one of the two pillars of the Toyota Production System, on a par with Just-in-Time, and that jidoka means “automation with a human touch,” or “autonomation.”
The English-language literature often reduces jidoka to making machines stop when they malfunction, but the actual jidoka includes a complete automation strategy, with sequences of steps to automate both fabrication and assembly operations, as well as an approach to managing the interactions between humans and machines on a manufacturing shop floor.
This is what I wrote about in Working with Machines.
See on www.industryweek.com