Danish Technological Institute, Denmark - IFR R&D Institute
Lean+Automation = stronger Danish industry?
Is a combination of Lean and automation the key to a strengthened Danish industry? The answer is yes, if you ask Danish Technological Institute which has a new product in the pipeline, designed to help Danish companies to see new opportunities and unexplored potential in their production. The method is called 'Lean Automation' and merges the best features from Lean and automation.
"This initiative is very favourable. By creating symbiosis between Lean and Automation we expect that Danish industry - with the introduction of this knowledge - will be able to move even further and eventually obtain several competitive advantages," says Niels Korsager, head of section at Danish Technological Institute, Industrial Robotics.
Traditionally, optimising processes through Lean has been seen as an overall way of thinking, while optimising through Automation focus on individual processes in the total production. However, the development and the tools available today makes it possible for companies to integrate Lean processes in the whole production environment, while also equipping the employees with the tools to spot automation potentials.
Do Lean trained employees have the sufficient basic knowledge to evaluate a need for automation? And will the solution be profitable?
These are some of the questions that must be answered before 'Lean Automation' can be introduced as a concept. During the summer 2012, Danish Technological Institute chose to incline the Institute's specialists in Lean, quality management and process optimisation in the field of robotics. Together, they have been trying to answer those questions by looking at the different challenges and opportunities.
"Lean and Automation definitely produce results separately! Nevertheless, the methods and conclusions are relatively common knowledge and practice within the two domains. Separately, they will only be able to move industrial production to a certain point, before the cost-/benefit curve evens out. But together they would be able to provide a completely different strength and agility on parameters such as quality, cost-effectiveness and delivery capability." says Niels Korsager.
Lean Automation is offering a fundamental link between technology and process understanding, which is necessary to develop a healthy and profitable production. Even for products and processes that have been viewed as being too expensive to keep in Denmark.
"The product is unique with a high level of knowledge that you will not find anywhere else. It is with knowledge, quality and insight into the production environments that the Danish industry can benefit and distance itself from external competition," says Niels Korsager and explains the background to the initiative:
"The initiative has come as a logical part of the mission we are united on - to protect and develop Danish production and industry, so that we will continue to have a healthy industry with plenty of jobs in the future. Our success is measured upon the initiatives that will be launched and implemented in the industry. This is the role of Danish Technological Institute. We will ensure and help businesses forward with both Lean and Automation, so that they will achieve concrete results. We take responsibility for ensuring that the information we provide is interpreted and applied correctly."
Lean Automation provides new knowledge in the field and contributes to new perspectives and considerations for Lean projects. This will create potentials you had never thought possible.
Danish Technological Institute will be offering the 'Lean Automation' education in their Lean course-program. It happens with the introduction of two new training activities initially functioning as continuing educations to an existing education.
"We have had great success for several years with our education 'Lean Navigator in Production'. Here the employees are given the necessary tools for the Lean process and qualifies to evaluate the production facilities of the company," says Kry Herholt, senior consultant at the Danish Technological Institute and explains:
"The program is a flagship for us and has many different content elements in advance. Now we will offer a continuing education, a fourth module, which goes on 'Lean Automation'. The Lean Navigators will get tools and knowledge about robots and automation, which will enable them to spot automation potential and include these considerations in their Lean processes."
The training educational program 'Lean Navigator in Production' will continue as usual, but we recommend companies to include 'Lean Automation'. However, this brings the question of why Danish Technological Institute have not included it as a regular part of the training?
Companies may be at different stages in their Lean process, and therefore there may be a certain distance towards 'Lean Automation' in the beginning, where one would want to explore the 'raw' lean first. Moreover, if you have a Lean training from the past, you would be able to build 'Lean Automation' on top of it, when you are ready for it." says Kry Herholt.
The picture is from BM Silofabrik. It is experiences from companies such as BM Silofabrik that has helped create 'Lean Automation'. BM Silofabrik has been focusing on Lean in all areas of its production and has afterwards created specifications for automation projects which are currently being developed in the company.
Even though it demands some prerequisites and basic training in Lean, 'Lean Automation' will be for the benefit of all, no matter if you have participated in Danish Technological Institute's educational programs before or not.
"We are already offering the best Lean educations in Denmark and we believe that we are able to document this. With our new special connection with the area of robot technology and the great experience and insight into current and future automation technologies we hold at the Institute, we believe that we will be offering a completely unique product. Therefore, all companies should have the opportunity to explore it even though their employees might have been educated in Lean different places than at the Institute," says Kry Herholdt.