How lean manufacturing software is improving mass production

If you run a mass production plant, you’ve probably thought about how technology affects your business. 

Even if you don’t yet have a strategy for digital transformation, it’s never a bad time to understand what effects software and digital tech can have on your bottom line.

That’s what we want to go over with you today. And as we hope to spell out, greater technology integration is an investment worth making.

Today, we’ll cover:

What’s mass production?

Mass production describes the process by which a large quantity of goods are manufactured to standard, usually using automation.

The idea is to break the manufacturing process down into easily repeatable steps, reducing the need for highly skilled labour along the line. 

It relies heavily on standardisation of parts and work, and is designed to quickly and efficiently manufacture products to a consistent quality.

And mass production is how the modern, global economy was born.

Originating in the early automotive industry, and specifically the factories of the Ford Company, on-the-line mass production was a huge development in the industry.

Famously, it turned the motor car from a luxury item to an affordable essential.

And we see its effects everywhere. Cheap consumer goods, ever-expanding global trade, rapid response to demand; mass production has allowed for greater possibilities, productivity, and profitability in industry.

But that doesn’t mean these systems always run smoothly.

Effective mass production requires significant investment and maintenance. Sophisticated consumers demand greater customisation, thus reducing the effectiveness of standardised production.

In fact, many are now predicting the next phase of mass production to be ‘mass personalisation’, requiring a rethink of how standardised production works.

Add to this antiquated, inflexible production systems, and you have a manufacturing process that lacks the agility to succeed.

Digital technology and a connected, responsive production line is how you shape your factory to get the best from mass production and reduce the drawbacks. And, it can give you better agility to respond to specific consumer demands.

So how does software fit into this?

How relevant is digital software for mass production?

In this 2022 report, adapting to supply chain disruption was listed as the top concern of mass production manufacturers. And you can see why.

For a sector so vulnerable to external pressures, manufacturing still hasn’t taken full advantage of technology to defend itself.

If your house is on a stormy coastline, you need good insulation. Similarly, for industry, ensuring production lines are as efficient and effective as possible is necessary to shield factories from forces raging outside them.

If you have a production line with a minimised risk of accidents, waste reduced to a minimum, and a clear view of how your sections are performing, you’re better able to withstand pressure from outside.

You can’t do that with analogue, manual methods. The same report we linked to above found that 7+ hours per week were spent by engineering teams on project management and reporting alone, time that could be critical for effective work on the line.

Software available now could reduce this time significantly.

If you’re on the fence about manufacturing software, this is the real reason you should consider it.

Production lines that are connected and feed into a digital system are easier to read, analyse, and learn from. This in turn allows for more opportunities to improve.

Eventually, provided you follow a consistent routine, your lines will be more cohesive and effective than they were before.

Digital technology, and specific software for industry, now exists to act as the connective tissue between your machinery, staff, and distinct production areas.

This is why there’s now momentum behind the industry’s digital transformation.

Increasingly, manufacturers are adopting digital technologies to help them prepare for the future.

In fact, reports estimate that by 2027, manufacturing will be the sector with the highest overall spend on digital transformation projects, at 18% of worldwide investments.

This gives you an added incentive to consider adopting digital tech now, because if your competitors are implementing it, letting it pass could see you lag behind.

So what’s the best approach to mass production and digital tech? Lean manufacturing.

Why is lean manufacturing the best approach to mass production?

Your use of digital technology should be informed by a philosophy of work. 

As we mentioned above, the digitalisation of manufacturing works best when it’s slipped into an effective routine. This routine should incorporate auditing, maintenance, standard work, standardisation, and every other regular action performed across your factory.

Lean manufacturing is the philosophy of work that turns your routine into a cycle of continuous improvement.

We write about lean manufacturing a lot. It’s because we’ve seen firsthand, over many years, the impact this discipline has on factories.

To reduce waste and always seek opportunities for improvement is the business of lean.

It’s also about making your workflow and line prepared to detect, diagnose, and solve problems as they arise. All without a significant increase in investment.

This makes it a perfect companion to digitalisation. 

If the main selling point for upgrading your systems is to learn more from your production line, and to measure and improve your KPIs, having a lean mindset will help you know what to look for.

And for mass production systems in particular, where significant investment of capital is required to operate standardised systems and machinery, improving everywhere you can is critical to profitability. 

For example, consider auditing. If you knew a digital system could help you save a certain amount of time on every audit, you could spend that earned time on more profitable work.

Meanwhile, your new system for collecting, displaying, and analysing information from across your line could be a source of overwhelm if it weren’t for the important numbers you’d identified through your lean methodology. 

Now, you can focus on what matters.

Why should I consider manufacturing software an investment and not an expense?

The initial outlay on manufacturing software is why many companies hesitate to adopt it.

They look at their quarterly targets and projections, look at the cost of the software and onboarding time, and conclude that maybe this would be better next year.

It doesn’t take much analysis to understand that this thinking creates a long term risk. Though innovation can be delayed, it can’t be held off indefinitely.

Yes, it’s true that any new tool takes a little time to bed in, but the potential gains of digitalisation could be enormous in the long run.

Adopting digital technology is definitely an investment. To think of it as such, and to understand that it will bring a significant ROI if it’s patiently embedded into your processes, is how you can prepare stakeholders for the conversation about it.

Management needs to understand that software adoption is an opportunity to make their factory more profitable organically.

Which manufacturing software’s best for me?

If you want to completely overhaul your lines, or just add tailored improvements, there’s software out there to help you.

Full disclosure: our mlean Production System (mPS) does both. That’s why we want to introduce you properly.

What the mPS helps you with

The mPS has modules covering the full range of industrial activities, making it the most complete software solution on the market.

It’s lean manufacturing made digital.

Here’s a quick overview of its features:

Start of production

  • Ensure everything’s up to scratch before production begins.

Standard work

  • All the tools you need to implement effective processes across your lines.

Audits

  • Every audit you’ll ever need, all from one place.

Shop floor management

  • From Gemba walks to visual management displays and beyond, keep your shop floor running smoothly.

Maintenance

  • Fix issues before they appear through a comprehensive maintenance tool.

Improvement drivers

  • Reactive modules that learn from your data inputs to give you tailored recommendations.

Time for a look?

With digital transformation in full swing across the manufacturing industry, now’s the time to take a look at how your processes could run easier, more efficiently, and more profitably.

Book a free demo today and take a look at what our software can do for you and your factory!


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