Robots in Lean Manufacturing

To understand the impact of robots on lean manufacturing, we need to gain a good understanding of the term – Lean Manufacturing. Lean manufacturing is a management philosophy focusing on reduction of the seven manufacturing related wastes as defined originally by Toyota. The wastes are:
• Overproduction (production ahead of demand).
• Transportation (moving product that is not actually required to perform the processing).
• Waiting (waiting for the next production step).
• Inventory (all components, work in progress and finished product not being processed).
• Motion (people or equipment moving or walking more than is required to perform the processing).
• Over processing (due to poor tool or product design creating activity).
• Defects (the efforts involved in inspecting for and fixing defects).

There has been a steady increase in the role of industrial robots in manufacturing. With over 15,000 industrial robots sold every year, robots have become a mainstay in the manufacturing industry. Traditionally, robots have not always been viewed to have a role in the implementation of lean strategies. However, due to their flexibility, reliability and repeatability, to name a few advantages, the role of robots in constantly increasing.

Robots have been an off the shelf purchase item for the last two decades. The cost of common robot models from major manufacturers has plummeted due to large volume sales to automotive OEM’s and to the financially negative impact of competition.

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