Simplify, Simplify, Simplify, Simplify, Simplify ... then ... AUTOMATE
It’s official: The labour shortage that has plagued the US for the past year is now impacting Canada too. The “Great Resignation” is disrupting businesses of all shapes and sizes. So, what are business leaders to do?
A recent study by the Business Development Bank of Canada suggests that one way for employers to attract and retain talent is to embrace automation.
As Lean practitioners, this is music to our ears. Process optimization is the backbone of what we do, and has generated hundreds of millions of dollars in savings for our clients.
Here’s are the top things we consider when we look at opportunities to simplify and automate:
WOULD YOU WANT YOUR CHILD TO DO THIS JOB?
Typically, processes that are highly repetitive and are able to be performed independently are candidates for automation. Observe your positions as if they were staffed by your children. Would you want to see your child spend their career in that job? If not, it’s time to automate.
REDUCING PART COUNT and PROCESS STEPS
Think about how many parts are required to make your product. Can the design be modified to reduce your total part count? I challenge you to work on the design until you have been able to reduce your part count by 50%. Similarly, when looking at Process Steps, ask yourself if they can be reduced or even eliminated. In our experience, when evaluating the start-to-finish of a process, 80% of the time is consumed with non-value-added activities.
Diversity is not an asset in product design. Evaluate how many different types of materials are being used to create your product, and ask yourself if the design can be consolidated using only one type of material. Different materials usually means using different suppliers which adds time to your process.
Product designers look to optimize application and cost, but not necessarily the availability of parts. When you conduct a design review, can you standardize your parts? Toyota has long been the gold-standard of standardization. One KPI Toyota uses is the percentage of a vehicle that can be either assembled or disassembled using only a 13MM wrench.
The toy industry is hyper-competitive and product life cycles are typically short. Why not play with toys to see what ideas can be incorporated into your own design? Safety concerns mean toy parts are carefully considered. Audit toys to simplify your assembly process and reduce your total part count.
Any process can be designed to be automated if you have enough money. But if simplicity has been applied, true automation is beautiful poetry in motion. It’s also easier to manage and less prone to break-downs. Automation does not get tired. It is not concerned about taking breaks or eating lunch. Automation does not even mind working in the dark.
Once you have simplified your processes, you are now in a position to automate. You’ll also be better positioned to provide employment opportunities that will attract the right talent.