Lean Manufacturing Quick Tip 1 – Zero Monitoring

Lean Manufacturing Quick Tip 1 – Zero Monitoring

Aim towards zero monitoring on production machines – It is recognise that monitoring activities on production machine are in itself a form waste and with possibly of using automated production process, any reduction in monitoring tasks can free people for more productive activities.

In a recent Lean for SME workshop run by TXM it was observed that the operator of a filling process had to continually add or subtract small amount of product in order to correct the weight supplied by the automated delivery system. Not only does the operator have to monitor the process but has to correct (rework) the function of the machine.

How Do We Move Toward Less Monitoring in Manufacturing Process?

By removing sources of variation and other wastes within the process we start at a process where a variety of products are produced in small lots with one operator per machine. The idea of a continuous unmanned operation seems like a very difficult option. Operators are required to watch and man the machine, ready for any malfunction or quality issue.

The first step is to start using machines that can run “operator free” over short period of time (a lunch break) and that everyone understands that watching machines is wasteful activity. Process improvement is needed to improve the operation of the machine to run “without an operator”. In many cases a very low tech solution can be found or having the machine restored back to its correct operating condition.

From here the next step is to achieve a level where more then one machine can now be watched over by one operator as there may still be some machines or parts of the process that cannot be automated without capital investment. Line balancing the machines can improve the number of machines an operator can oversee.

The final step is seeking the equipment/machine that has the ability to run a whole shift without the need for an operator. Examples of this can be seen in Plastic Injection Molding, CNC, Brake Press and Laser Cutting Machines.

Regardless of the machine you have, try to eliminate monitoring and see it as a form of waste within the manufacturing process.


Robert Chittenden

Author: Robert Chittenden

Robert Chittenden is a Senior Lean Consultant at TXM Lean Solutions