Factory Of The Future | Daniela Costa | Goldman-Sachs

“The factory is getting a facelift, thanks to a raft of new technologies designed to make manufacturing more efficient, flexible and connected. Daniela Costa […] outlines three key drivers of this development, which could provide more than $500 billion in combined savings for manufacturers and customers.”

Source it from Goldman-Sachs

Michel Baudin‘s comments:

Thanks. I didn’t know Goldman-Sachs was the go-to place for manufacturing expertise.

The only departure from classical automation hype is the emphasis on human-machine collaboration. This topic had been ignored in the American and European approach to automation, with the exception of Working With Machines.

Otherwise, she used the word “significant” many times, probably to imply the existence of research and data behind her statements while saying nothing about what that research might have been. I am particularly curious about where the “$500B in savings” figure came from. It is given context-free, so we don’t know whether she means in Europe or worldwide and over how many years.

She also equated automation with the use of robots but that is common in the press.

Now It’s Humans Assisting Robots | Sheelah Kolhatkar | The New Yorker

Steelcase ology

“[…]As a zone leader, Stinson is responsible for about fifteen employees on a section of the production line that makes parts for Steelcase’s Ology series—height-adjustable tables built for the standing-desk craze. Until last year, the plant workers had to consult a long list of steps, taking pains to remove the correct parts out of a cart filled with variously sized bolts and screws and pins and to insert each one in the correct hole and in the correct order. Now computerized workstations, called ‘vision tables,’ dictate, step by step, how workers are to assemble a piece of furniture. The process is virtually mistake-proof: the system won’t let the workers proceed if a step isn’t completed correctly. We stood behind a young woman wearing a polo shirt and Lycra shorts, with a long blond ponytail. When a step was completed, a light turned on above the next required part, accompanied by a beep-beep-whoosh sound. A scanner overhead tracked everything as it was happening, beaming the data it collected to unseen engineers with iPads.[…] ”

Sourced through The New Yorker

Michel Baudin‘s comments: This is excerpted from a long article entitled Welcoming Our New Robot Overlords, from the 10/23/2017 issue of The New Yorker that caught my attention because it’s not about robots and it seems to be in the same spirit as Omron’s Digital Yatai back in 2002: using technology to eliminate hesitation and to mistake-proof operations that are too long or have too many variants to allow operators to go “on automatic” while performing them.

When repeating the same 60 seconds of work 400 times in a shift, operators quickly develop the ability to execute rapidly and accurately with their minds elsewhere. If on the other hand, the takt time is 20 minutes or the work is customized for every unit, the work requires the operators’ undivided, conscious attention and their productivity is increased by systems like the vision tables described in the article, that prompt them for every step and validate its completion.

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Jidoka At GE And Amazon | Marc Onetto | Planet Lean

“[…]The principle of Jidoka applies everywhere, especially if we come down to its fundamental intent: preventing bad quality from going down the line and impacting the customer, understanding the causes of a problem as it happens, and giving the employee the authority (and autonomy) to stop the line when an issue occurs.”

Sourced Planet Lean

Michel Baudin‘s comments: The experience of an executive like Marc Onetto is always a good read. What he recounts, however, has everything to do with the TPS approach to quality and nothing to do with Jidoka. Don’t get me wrong, I appreciate its value. I have seen plants where assembly work is continued on units known to be defective, with a repair area to fix them at the end. I have heard managers justify this practice with the mistaken assumption that it allowed them to ship faster and I have seen the improvements that result from stopping it, in line with what Onetto describes.

But we shouldn’t forget that Jidoka is not about employee empowerment but about automation. Regardless of whether it’s translated as “automation with a human touch” or “autonomation,” it’s still a form of automation. Onetto recounts being made to watch Sakichi Toyoda’s Type G loom stopping when threads broke but that’s not all it did. It also had automatic shuttle change, which solved the problem of what to do when shuttles run out of yarn that had bedeviled loom engineers for decades.

See Jidoka isn’t just about “stop and fix”, Jidoka versus automation, or check out Working with Machines

See on <Scoop it link>

Productivity, Automation, And Robots

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.

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Future of Lean: is robotic motion/transportation waste? | Christian Hohmann

Christian Hohmann

“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.

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Jidoka isn’t just about “stop and fix”

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.

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Buy More Robots? | Adams Nager | IndustryWeek

“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.”

Source: www.industryweek.com

Michel Baudin‘s comments:Really? If you are not competitive, just buy more robots! But wait… Haven’t we heard this before? Isn’t it what GM did in the 1980s? Under Roger Smith’s leadership, from 1980 to 1989, GM spent about $40B on robots, and this investment didn’t make it competitive.

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.itlean manufacturing

‘Gods’ Make Comeback at Toyota as Humans Steal Jobs From Robots | Bloomberg

See on Scoop.itlean 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…”



Michel Baudin‘s Comments:

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

Giving Credit for Jidoka | Bill Waddell

See on Scoop.itlean 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…”



Michel Baudin‘s insight:

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

A New Approach to Materials Handling in Warehouses

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.

Cheesecake-factory-device-in-Kiva-warehouse with highlightAs 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.