Equipment Selection / Design

What Equipment Selection has to do with Lean?

Usually we are trying to introduce/implement Lean in a given situation.  Very often we come across the situation where we feel we should have re-looked at equipment selection only if we had a choice.

It is in this context that Equipment Selection/Design plays an important role in introducing/ implementing Lean.

Buying the right equipment at the right time is as important a Lean Principle as supplying materials on time to a Customer. The equipment selection must be in the direction to eliminate waste at source during manufacturing. Buying a piece of equipment at the wrong time or of the wrong type/design often means wasting capital when the equipment is not fully utilized.

What to look for when Selecting an Equipment for Lean Manufacturing?

To achieve the best results, the Manufacturing System can be designed by using the following guidelines:

  1. Start by considering the equipment be fully utilized as we make the hourly/daily quantities. Such equipment should not process batches, but instead continuously processes single units.
  2. As a next step consider if this small equipment can be suited to complete a single process at a time.  It may be okay to consider that single process is capable of completing multi operations on the product to be processed.  However, this should be possible without many setups.
  3. Equipment selected for Lean Manufacturing should be flexible. Choose equipment that is adaptable to the production of many types of products, and dedicate the equipment to the line.  Jigs, as such should, be able to be changed between products with ease (one touch) and with speed.
  4. Now apply concept of operator friendly automation (Toyota calls it autonomation which implies automation with human touch) and Poka-Yoke etc. In other words, improve equipment so that they stop themselves when they produce defects.
  5. Equipment should be easy to operate and easy to maintain. Equipment that is easy to clean and easy to oil; allows quick changeovers; has few parts that can become worn; has easily replaceable parts; has standardized screws that are few in number; has organized blueprints, operating manuals, and is energy efficient, relatively   quiet, and does nor pollute the air or the water.
  6. Equipment should be movable. Machine are equipped with casters, flexible pipes, and flexible wiring.  There are no fixed conveyor lines.
  7. Equipment should be self-cleaning. Equipment disposes of its own dust, trash, turnings, and so on.
  8. Equipment should allow operators to stand. Equipment that is at the appropriate height to allow for operation while operator is standing up normally, enables operator to move the articles being processed from left to right, and requires as few steps as possible when used in a production line. 
  9. Equipment should keep track of both  - count the number of items processed and the number of defects.
  10. Continue refining and enhancing the concept with the proper balance of conveyance, and properly sized buffers/WIP.

The result will be a system that has a smooth flow of material, minimum lot sizes, while maximizing the value added content of the operator.

Video Below explains in depth Equipment Selection


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Web References on Equipment Selection for Lean

  1. Lean Engineering Initiatives-Delphi