Lean is a well-known method for improving a business, reducing waste and, at the same time, creating value. The method is based on three principles, one of which, Muda, stands for waste or unnecessary work that does not create value. Much of this is obvious to most businesses and something everyone strives for, but how do you get there? In addition to changed working methods and continuous improvement work, many components and technical solutions can help you along the way. One of these is positioning systems.
Increased demands on flexibility and speed
The requirements for short set-up times and high flexibility are increasing for most manufacturers. You must have to adapt quickly to the production line for different products. This is in line with what Lean advocates. But how do you do this when a production line has many components such as e.g. controls, rails, label printers and cameras that all need to be set up? Manual adjustments with handwheels can take many hours before everything is adjusted. In addition, it is difficult to get the same settings and positions every time. No matter how skilled and thorough the operators are, the human factor is always there. By automating the process and installing positioning motors, all these components can be simultaneously adjusted to a new position directly on demand, efficiently and precisely.
What are positioning systems?
Positioning systems are complete units with motors, integrated control, BUS communication and a measuring system. They are ideal for controlling e.g. linear units, electric actuators and ball screws. Since the positioning systems have everything integrated in a very compact format, they are easily installed in existing plants. In cases where there is a handwheel, installation is simply a matter of removing the wheel, mounting the positioning system, and plugging it in. It is usually not more complicated than that.
The 7 wastes and how to avoid them with positioning systems
It is often tempting to take the opportunity to manufacture a lot of an item while the production line is adapted for it. The positioning system makes it possible to change an entire production line in a couple of minutes. Then, you do not have to produce more than is needed or earlier than what is required. Overproduction risks resulting in cassation. From a sustainability perspective, it is wise to minimise the usage of raw materials and energy.
Manual changes in a production line take a long time. Automated positioning processes drastically reduce set-up times and general downtime. In this way, resources are conserved because personnel and machines do not have to wait for production to start.
With quick format changeovers and short set-up times, it is easier to manufacture on-demand instead of producing more than is required and then keeping it in stock. Increased inventory ties up capital, and there is always the risk that what is in inventory will never be used or sold. In addition, warehouses often require larger premises and, all in all, increased costs in several different ways.
Through automated format changeovers, operators do not have to manually change settings on the various components in the production line. The risks for the staff in the form of possible work and wear and tear injuries can be minimised. With these flexible lines, entire processes with many involved steps can be combined with reduced material movements as a potential consequence, and the process runs in a much shorter time.
The built-in intelligent positioning systems ensure that a fixed position is always adjusted consistently, and built-in functions automatically correct accidental changes. You avoid deviations and possible complaints. It also avoids discarding materials and taking resources from the business to manufacture replacement products.
With the positioning system’s precise results, compared to manual settings, there is no need to overwork the production quantity. For example, you avoid producing test versions to correct settings and adjust positions. And because format changeovers are so fast, you can adapt production and exclude unnecessary elements that do not add value to certain product variants.
If you only produce what is required, you avoid transporting and moving materials unnecessarily. It can be about e.g. raw materials that are transported long distances and contribute to CO2 emissions. But unnecessary transport can also mean redundant movements within the production facility of, for example, excess production that must be packaged and stored. Or that the production line so that manual work is required to move the goods on to the next part of the process. Such transport adds nothing of value to the customer or the product itself but only uses resources.
Lean is, of course, much more than just quick format changes. It is a method that involves the entire business and its business. But it can be good to know that sometimes there are simple, helpful solutions.