Through the practice of “lean manufacturing” techniques, today’s manufacturers are realizing increased value in their businesses due to reduced material and labor costs. Lean manufacturing techniques are geared toward increasing operational efficiencies, primarily through the reduction of waste, and are generally most effective when implemented before a plant has ever broken ground.
But a fresh build is not the only way to achieve the benefits of efficiency. Other strategies include a clean and well organized workspace, error and mistake proofing of production processes, and work teams capable of self-direction. These management approaches can be invaluable, particularly in those industries that include advanced manufacturing processes, which are increasingly employing automation.
Automated manufacturing not only can reduce costs, it can also improve quality, productivity, safety, and competitiveness. Innovations in tools like programmable logic controllers, CNC machines, and robotic arms are transforming the nature of manufacturing from the smallest to the largest companies. This transformation has led to reduced labor costs while also fueling growth, and while this has meant the elimination of many low-skilled positions, it has also meant a rise in higher-skilled positions that offer higher compensation through wages and benefits.
Of course, despite the trend toward automation, we are still a long way from the push-button, self-sufficient factory. For the foreseeable future, there will still be many dirt-under-the-fingernail type jobs that require the dexterity and mindfulness that only human hands can provide. Thus, by combining lean manufacturing techniques with ever-expanding automation technologies, modern manufacturers are increasing value for themselves and their customers, while at the same time offering true career opportunities for the people they employ.