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The Benefits of Lean Manufacturing: Processes and Components

November 5, 2010
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Lean manufacturing, a practice that strives for waste reduction while still bringing value to customers, is bringing production benefits to companies worldwide. Traditional manufacturing processes come with defects, overproduction and obsolescence. This is because they count on a great deal of people and processes for the completion of one task. They will face more expenses to cover unnecessary overhead, and will sustain non-value-added procedures and pervasive material handling through redundant processes.

However, these obstacles can be easily avoided with the use of lean design implementations and components, which serve to eliminate unnecessary steps. In many manufacturing processes, waste goes unnoticed every day. Unnecessary shipments, unused equipment and tools, time-consuming assemblies and inconsistencies can rapidly add up to significant depletion of resources, time and money. As a result of inefficient operations, a company that does not use lean manufacturing practices will have longer lead times, more waste and more time spent on unnecessary steps and processes.

Manufacturers who recognize these issues can alleviate them by implementing lean manufacturing processes through utilizing lean components. By using lean components from the beginning of the design process, companies will see immediate return on investment (ROI) through financial savings, improved safety, quicker delivery and increased product and process quality. Lean components, therefore present a huge opportunity for manufacturers which seek to improve their overall business.



The Benefits of Bus Bars

Companies can save time and money from a design process’ start to finish by condensing multiple assembly components into one larger component. Bus bars, which are thick strips of copper or aluminum that conduct electricity within an electrical apparatus, are used to carry very large currents, or to distribute current to multiple devices within switchgear or equipment. These components are particularly good examples of lean elements that can be used for a vast number of electrical applications. Their quality, reproducibility, consistency and relatively simple design make bus bars highly efficient, which has been shown through their reliability in the reduction of human error, the lowering of inductance and the increasing of electrical efficiencies. Bus bars transform a complex mess of cables into one strong, simple assembly, and can fulfill almost any power distribution requirement.

In terms of reducing necessary wires, bus bars mitigate installation and set-up times while reducing the risk of human error. Minimizing the handling of materials leads to reduction of unnecessary operations, and since lean components cost and weigh much less than wires and cables, the use of bus bars leads to complete electrical efficiency. Additionally, bus bars’ larger surface areas enable them to remain cooler than wires and cables, allowing heat dissipation to be more efficient and safe.

Bus bars undergo a variety of manufacturing stages in a single condensed form, rather than in multiple parts, as well. This prevents missing parts and the need for guesswork and accelerates design-verification by requiring fewer steps. In addition to shortening process development through the vendor’s assembly of the block, it eliminates the possibility of incorrectly connecting or wiring the assembly. A simplified installation translates to fewer manufacturers completing fewer steps, therefore lessening the odds of human error. Also, after the design work is finished, the block approach cuts costs and saves time in almost all additional facets of production.



The Block Technique

Block products refer to components such as bus bars and integrated electronic assemblies to become one larger assembly in order to simplify and improve fit and functionality. The block design is a lean engineering technique, which supports the early stages of component design simultaneously with individual needs, since those involved in the production of bus bars and similar assemblies can directly communicate with manufacturers in order to meet design specifications and not waste time or parts.

Block design also benefits procurement by incorporating multiple vendors together for one assembly, as opposed to a long list. This way, manufacturers are able to order single rather than multiple materials, eliminating the use of multiple part files which can hinder communication. The block design technique also applies to receiving, removing the need to travel to multiple vendors to inspect components individually in a customer source inspection. In the event that follow-up is necessary, it will require significantly less effort than it would if numerous components were in question. Additionally, customers are able to conduct source inspections at one vendor facility rather than traveling to many locations for different answers.

The block approach also simplifies operations for accounts payable because it requires only one check per vendor. It leads to simplified inventory control, allowing the creation of a single, rather than multiple inventory part numbers. If the block design was separated into its individual components and assembled in-house, more separate components would need to be inventoried to compensate for expected manufacturing loss, usually estimated at 20 % . Furthermore, the average block assemblies are subjected to pre-tests before delivery and then sealed, therefore not requiring the same careful handling and storage as disconnected, sensitive components.

Because prior steps towards the assembly of the block have already been completed by the vendor, the manufacturing of components like bus bar blocks require much less process. Bus bar manufacturing benefits reduce the risk of improper wiring and increase efficiency in the installation process due to its static geometry and definable terminations, which result in the reduced need for manufacturing personnel and process instructions. Engineers can enjoy the reassurance of fit and function due to designers’ lean techniques. Through various inspections in the beginning stages of design, block assemblies guarantee precision and cut many steps in the manufacturing process. They are also still able to suit their intended functions, because they are designed specifically for their respective purposes and are inspected many times before being implemented.

Lean manufacturing benefits areas throughout the market, from safety to time-saving, to costs and resources. Forward-thinking manufacturers are using block design in general, particularly to alternative component choices in greater numbers, due to the clear ROI. By replacing cables and multiple, unassembled components, lean manufacturers stand to gain a competitive advantage in every aspect of the industry.

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