Learn about “lean”

Making your manufacturing process efficient is not only hard, it is actually as complicated as the hardest problems computer science has to offer. Have you ever wondered what the fastest way for passengers to board an airplane is, why traffic jams exist and where they come from, or how to organize a train time table? These are hard optimization problems that are still surprisingly little understood. Manufacturing is all of this, and more.

What these problems have in common are stochastic fluctuations that can get an otherwise simple system “stuck” and a number of possible solutions that grow exponentially. Indeed, why should traffic ever jam up if cars just follow each other at the same speed or why can we simply board an airplane starting from the last row window seat to the front? Once something goes just a little wrong, problems quickly pile up. Planning for these things is difficult too, as enumerating all the possible ways materials can flow through your facilities quickly exceeds what today’s computers are able to handle.

As these problems evade mathematical and computational tools, manufacturing has evolved a series of best practices, such as “lean thinking”, “six sigma” or “theory of constraints”, but they are often difficult to implement, putting additional burden on the workers. Robotic Materials aims at providing robotic tools that help with implementing lean principles, providing value not only by saving labor, but by providing a tool that makes implementing and monitoring best practices simple.

  • Learning “lean” starts at home
    Some people say lean manufacturing cannot be learned, it can only be experienced. I agree with this statement, as “lean” is not just a collection of rules. Worse, more often than not, the opposite is true and what has been the “golden rule” nine out of ten times, the tenth time it will be your […]
  • How lot sizes change your efficiency
    The saying goes that single-item flow is a lot more efficient than batch processing. This is easy to see when considering that seeing large inventories piling up anywhere in your factory and other stations waiting to process a batch are one of the Seven Deadly Wastes. But how bad is it? Would reducing batch sizes […]
  • How to turn your job shop into a flow shop with material handling robots
    A job shop is usually the least productive way to organize your manufacturing effort, see for instance “Why Are Job Shops Always Such a Chaotic Mess” by Christoph Roser. Yet, there are reasons job shops do not go away, and this is why you are probably reading this article. Lets look at the reasons everyone […]
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