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Ways To Reduce Motion Waste With Technology

The reality is that these 8 wastes can be hiding in any business process, whether it is acquiring new customers, purchasing material, producing parts or paying employees. In the next series of blogs, we'll break down each waste further and share ideas on how technology can eliminate those wastes. Let's look at Motion - excess people movement.

In my first role as a Quality Engineer, my area made electric motors, which were installed into other products in other buildings on our manufacturing campus. When there was an issue, I would received a building page to call a person back. If I was on the floor, it meant walking to a phone. If an upstream production line had a quality issue, I was required to walk to the other building to investigate. Upon learning the issue, I would return to find the right people and tools to fix the issue. While I loved leaving the building and having an excuse to be outside for a minute, if I'm honest, it was a waste of time. Production was stopped for usually an hour during this investigation. That's an expensive form of waste.

Luckily times have changed and technology has evolved to help us eliminate non-value add motion. Here are a few examples of technology, of increasing complexity that can help eliminate motion in your business processes, or production.

Tried and true technology:

  • The easiest is creating a central repository that contains the status of the process. This can be as simple as a centralized Microsoft document that is accessible to all stake holders. The important thing is that people are timely about filling in the status. This requires discipline and usually standard work to remember to complete the date entry.

  • Web applications that drive the process are a great way to centralize communication and avoid walking or riding to find the answers. Part of the limitation of web applications is that the access isn't always available to third parties, such as suppliers or unlicensed personnel. Some applications are not mobile friendly either, making data entry or viewing a challenge if a person is not at their computer.

  • This is where a mobile application or mobile-friendly web application can provide additional value. Some applications have a mobile application, in addition to the standard application, such as Salesforce. Modern web development is designed with a mobile first thinking, so the web page layout actually changes with the screen size. (If you use Google Chrome, the developer tools has a cool feature where you can see how a website looks on mobile). Even if you decide to take a lunch break, you can easily track what is happening while you are out, if you choose.

  • Andon lights are an easy way to inform people of an issue, rather than require them to visit the shop floor to figure out if things are ok. With Andon Lights, the operator changes the color when an issue arises. This requires discipline just like a shared document, but is just as simple.

Technology for the curious:

  • Smart bulbs are similar to Andon lights, but rather than rely on people to pull a cord, an algorithm is used to change the color. My team had done a proof of concept where the light color was programmed to change when the data indicated that a quality metric was below goal.

  • Drones are a technology that I haven't implemented, but I find intriguing. I don't have good hand eye coordination, just ask my kids about the time I used their new toy drone. Luckily it didn't break from my horrible driving skills. A colleague of mine tested drones with a camera to see different areas of a trucking facility. The drone was able to reach places faster for sure. Be sure to check with the safety team prior to testing drones in your factories.

  • Ask Alexa. I am not sure if a secure way exists to integrate Alexa into operations, yet. I have to think in the coming years, someone smart will figure that out. If that's the case, then think about all of the questions that can be answered by speaking, that you would normally have to walk to find the answer.

Taking advantage of these technologies eliminates other wastes as well. It's important to evaluate the waste elimination and return on investment in a more wholistic way before making a significant investment in technology. I recommend starting small with an inexpensive solution to prove the concept, the value and vet any potential road blocks first as well.

What other technology solutions can you think of to eliminate non value add motion in your processes or operations?

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