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Lean Manufacturing is getting an AI upgrade

Since the time it was honed by Taiichi Ohno at Toyota shop-floors from the mid-60s to 70s, Lean manufacturing has always been the gold standard for driving efficiency on the shop-floors. Lean manufacturing concepts have stood the test of time and have been further evolving continuously on shop-floors globally. “Productivity impact is derived not from the recommendation of SOPs but by driving adherence”

Lean Manufacturing is getting an AI upgrade. Credit - https://fourprinciples.com/expert-opinion/lean-ai-marrying-artificial-intelligence-and-lean-management-in-manufacturing/

Since the time it was honed by Taiichi Ohno at Toyota shop-floors from the mid-60s to 70s, Lean manufacturing has always been the gold standard for driving efficiency on the shop-floors. Lean manufacturing concepts have stood the test of time and have been further evolving continuously on shop-floors globally.

We, at Sparrosense, are new to the concepts and practice of Lean Manufacturing and are fast realising that AI and specifically AI-powered Video Analytics is giving Lean Manufacturing concepts a super power.

Kaizen - Continuous improvement is not really continuous

Kaizen means continuous improvements in one of the defining principles of “The Toyota Way”, but we have found the reality on the shop-floors to be different.

We often find that process transformation is done as part of a short-term consulting exercise, which recommends SOPs based on a detailed study. These new SOPs are pushed until the time consulting exercise is going on and show the initial impact gaining admiration and claps. But as soon as the engagement ends, processes mostly revert to the previous adhoc version.

The key to understanding here is that productivity impact is delivered not by recommendation of the SOPs but by ensuring that SOPs are continuously adhered to. But the way current process optimizations are driven on the shop floors, this is often not taken into account and more than 70% exercises relapse to the old way of doing things.

This breaks the idea of “Kaizen – continuous improvement” which is a critical aspect of Lean Manufacturing.

“Productivity impact is derived not from the recommendation of SOPs but by driving adherence”

Ensuring adherence has been a challenge and the responsibility rests mainly with the Supervisor. The floor supervisor has multiple priorities and expecting him to ensure adherence without any system or tools isn’t fair.

AI Video Analytics to drive SOP adherence

Recent advances in AI and hardware technology now enable you to ensure that all recommended SOPs are adhered to continue even after the Lean manufacturing consulting team has left. Do check out more about Sparrosense AI Supervisor here.

This is how Sparrosense AI Supervisor leveraging AI Video Analytics works:

  1. CCTVs placed on the shop-floor to capture critical processes
  2. The feed is analysed using AI algorithms to extract timestamps of various processes. These processes can be on one particular workstation or across a shop-floor on multiple workstations
  3. The timestamps are then compared against the SOPs which may be recommended as part of the Lean Manufacturing Consulting exercise.
  4. Any deviation from the SOPs is detected and the information is sent via WhatsApp Alerts to the workers and line supervisors alerting them of the deviations so that they can take corrective actions right away.

These real-time alerts ensure that these SOPs are adhered to continuously and not only till the time the consulting team is watching. Also, daily reports, dashboard and analytics tools enable detailed analysis of the most common delays and recurring issues which can then be used to come up with more ideas for optimizations.

Gemba, Gembutsu, Genjitsu - The 3 G of Kaizen

Kaizen philosophy is powered by 3 Gs and we are realising that leveraging AI Video Analytics actually empowers all aspects of this philosophy.

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The 3Gs of Kaizen

1.     GEMBA

Gemba means to go to the spot. It means to understand the problem really well; you need to be on the shop-floor seeing the problem with your own eyes.

When you have such large shop-floors across multiple buildings across multiple locations, this often limits the actual “spots” one can actually visit.

Also, even if you visit a spot you are often only able to view a very short snapshot in time equivalent to the time you are able to spare on the shop-floor, which is often not sufficient to see all the facets of the problems.

AI Video Analytics solves this by bringing all the shop-floors and the processes right to your screen, you can see 100s of processes not only live, but you can actually go back in time and see instances of the same process over weeks and months making your analysis richer in the true spirit of Gemba.

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2.     Gembutsu

Gembutsu means to look closely at the actual deviation from the SOP. Sparrosense AI supervisor again makes it easy for you by highlighting these deviations automatically and creating a rich database of all recurring issues.

This enables you to directly look at the problem.

Not only that, but Sparrosense also preserves all the data of the shop-floor when that exact deviation occurred, so you can analyse what was happening in other parts of the shop-floor which may have caused this particular deviation.

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3.     Genjitsu

Genjitsu basically means facts on the ground.

This is important as often, even once the best SOPs are recommended and are practised, which may not result in the desired output and often in the absence of output blame is put on the workers or supervisors without ascertaining facts on the ground. Very often, new SOPs solve one part of the problem while creating several other problems.

Sparrosense AI Supervisor establishes the facts impartially enabling the shop-floor as well as the consulting team to have objective truth which can lead to the right answer avoiding the blame game.

How driving SOP adherence delivers impact

Ensuring adherence to SOPs actually impacts Shop-floor productivity in multiple ways:

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  • Productivity:

Ensuring adherence to SOPs reduces delays which drives up the quantity of production, but also saves the cost of man-hours and resources such as electricity consumption.

Another way to think of it is in terms of increasing asset utilization of individual equipment which collects (a missing word) to drive up asset utilization of the entire shop floor.

  • Quality:

Ensuring that SOPs are followed consistently confirms that there is less deviation in the processes which leads to consistent quality. It also becomes easier to correlate deviation in SOPs with issues in Quality.

  • Cost:

SOP adherence reduces cost in two ways – high productivity reduces the cost per part produced while improvement in quality reduces the cost of correction of the number of rejects.

Also, depending upon the process involved measuring SOP adherence continuously provides an opportunity to reduce other kinds of wastage such as material wastage, inventory and idle time.

  • Smoother operations:

Once SOPs are consistent on the shop-floor, there is predictability which makes it easy for the plant managers to plan for production and reduce the number of interventions required making the process smoother and reducing the cognitive load of the supervisory team.

If you are a Lean Manufacturing Consultant or a process automation expert in industries such as Electronics, Metal, Auto, FMCG, Consumer Durables and wish to explore how Sparrosense AI Supervisor can benefit you drive better results on shop floors please reach out to me at abhinav.gupta@sparrosense.com.

About the Author

Abhinav is the founder and CEO at Sparrosense. He graduated as an Engineer from IIT Delhi and has 10+ years of experience. He has worked as a Management Consultant with BCG and KPMG working with clients across Finance, Banking Healthcare, Government, Technology.