The 10 key elements of a lean manufacturing system are divided into four groups including suppliers, processes, customers and control parties. Each group has its own potential to integrate the advantages of technology 4.0.
The robustness of information exchanges among customers, manufacturers or process owners, and suppliers determines the extent of pull production and JIT effectiveness. Industry 4.0 enhances those exchanges with radio frequency identification (RFID) signals that wirelessly link to cloud computing and customer feedback through apps or social media that boost information sharing. With a combination of RFID tagging, global positioning system (GPS) tracking, and synchronization of data, on-time delivery performance can be enhanced and customer complaints or product defects addressed instantly.
The use of technology networks and resource-sharing platforms enables better knowledge sharing from customers to suppliers, which could overcome the problems of bureaucracy and inadequate communications among the parties involved. At the same time, sharing and synchronizing data among suppliers could enhance the effectiveness of supplier development with benchmarking against the best practices.
Getting customers involved from the product development stage has proven critical for businesses to survive. Customer involvement can be enabled with the use of online platforms such as the Lego ideas page, which allows companies to develop popular products based on customer feedback.
With the availability of real-time data access, customers can track and trace the progress of production processes and be updated on delivery times. The user experience could be fed back in a loop of information starting from the design development to final product use. This would provide a complete picture for continuous improvement over the entire product life cycle. The involvement and participation of customers throughout that cycle could also contribute to their greater satisfaction and loyalty.
Pull production can be enhanced with RFID tagging that enables the status monitoring of workpieces (finished goods or work-in-progress products) and real-time tracking of quantities and locations as well as communication with machines. With the use of such ICT, e-kanban systems can identify and trace any missing or vacant slots for replacement orders while sharing inventory data wirelessly in real time. Changes in schedules can also be continuously monitored and kanban parameters updated instantly. As a result, the pull system of production would be enhanced with automatic material replenishment monitoring, schedule tracking, and kanban updating with through Industry 4.0 facilities.
The final set of factors that influence lean integration with Industry 4.0 will be covered in the final part of this series.