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New Bosch Rexroth Podcast Discusses “Lean in Assembly Operations”

Bosch Rexroth Corporation

Lean Manufacturing Podcast Episode 16: “Lean in Assembly Operations”

Bosch Rexroth offers advice on how to incorporate lean manufacturing principles into assembly operations – even for automated processes.

(Hoffman Estates, IL) Developed with lean manufacturing expert Dan Fleming, Rexroth’s lean manufacturing podcast episode 16, “Lean in Assembly Operations” discusses how to apply lean concepts to automation. The episode is the latest in a series of Rexroth podcasts dedicated to lean manufacturing education.

Fleming, who is Continuous Improvement Manager of the Greater Boston Manufacturing Partnership (GBMP), stresses that although a common perception is that automation builds in waste and excess production, automation can actually streamline processes that are typical of a wasteful manual assembly line. For instance, the mistake-proofing, standardization and consistency that are the hallmarks of automation also are important concepts of lean manufacturing.

Fleming says design engineers should consider lean principles when designing automated processes. For example, robots on an assembly line should exclude additional movements that are not an integral part of the actual task. By limiting wasteful movement, the robot could complete the task faster and the item would be assembled quicker, and the process becomes even leaner.

Countering the common assumption that automation is expensive, Fleming explains that simply improving or modifying processes on a large machine could achieve a significant reduction in changeover time. If changing tools is necessary, for example, by removing and then replacing four bolts, operators should question if the same task can be completed safely with two bolts. This cuts the time needed to attach the tool by 50 percent, and that savings may be amplified across multiple tools to save additional time.

According to Fleming, overproduction is the worst waste because it perpetuates even more waste: moving the extra product, storing it, counting it and paying tax on it. It’s more efficient to keep a big machine idle than produce things that are not needed. A lean alternative, says Fleming, would be to add multiple smaller machines so the assembly line is more flexible.

Fleming also recommends that a person working in an assembly line should have a standardized, stable work environment that is always equipped with the right tools in spaces that can be reached without having to look up, eliminating a waste of motion. By designing workstations that are ergonomically correct, the person does not have to waste time by “setting up” the workstation; everything is ready for the task to be completed immediately.

“Lean in Assembly Operations” is episode number 16 in Rexroth’s lean manufacturing podcast series, available for listening or free to download from the company’s recently redesigned website at www.boschrexroth-us.com/leanpodcast.

Each podcast now has its own page which includes options to listen, download it or read the transcript. Visitors can also read the biography of the lean manufacturing expert featured in the podcast and have the option of sending the expert a question about lean manufacturing. Convenient links to other lean manufacturing resources that Bosch Rexroth provides to OEMs, including training resources, whitepapers and guidebooks accompany each podcast.

The podcast series is also available from the iTunes podcast library and other podcast directories on the web.

Developed by Bosch Rexroth’s Assembly and Handling group, each eight- to ten-minute lean manufacturing podcast episode presents guest experts and information to help manufacturers and OEMs understand and apply lean principles and practices in their businesses.

For more information on lean manufacturing visit www.boschrexroth-us.com/lean.

Bosch Rexroth AG is one of the world’s leading specialists in the field of drive and control technologies. Under the brand name of Rexroth the company supplies more than 500,000 customers with tailored solutions for driving, controlling and moving. Bosch Rexroth is a partner for industrial applications and factory automation, mobile applications and renewable energy.

As The Drive & Control Company, Bosch Rexroth develops, produces and sells components and systems in more than 80 countries. In 2009 Bosch Rexroth, part of the Bosch Group, achieved sales of around $5.7 billion
(4.1 billion Euro) with 34,200 employees.
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