How Industry 4.0 and lean production are becoming best friends

In one of my previous posts, I looked at lean production and Industry 4.0 – two approaches that have been friends at Bosch for quite a while now.

Since then, the concept for combining these two in a perfect symbiosis has been further developed and implemented. These friends are now best friends. How did that happen?

Lean production and Industry 4.0: A special friendship

At Bosch, our recipe for sustainable success is to build on the tried and true and combine it with innovation. Lean production represents the tried and true and Industry 4.0 looks toward the future and therefore innovation.

What does that mean, exactly? Let me explain by using the hands-on training, “BPS & I4.0” (BPS: Bosch Production System), that I took part in this February. The training was about how to improve production systems. As a participant, I was able to actually see the results of improvement measures (instead of just reading them off a slide!). We improved a fully connected production and intralogistics process (enabled by RFID) in three successive simulation runs.

How was the connected production set up? The existing process for the production of ballpoint pens was completely revamped to include RFID tags on the workpiece carriers. To capture production data in near real time, each work station is equipped with an antenna. There are a total of four workstations: pre-assembly of the lower and upper parts, final assembly, testing/QS, and packaging. There is also an antenna in the warehouse where the milk run starts and ends. Data used to calculate the KPIs can be directly visualized in an overview after each of the three simulation runs.

My key takeaways: Why lean production and Industry 4.0 are a good match

1. First of all, real-time value stream mapping should be the basis and focus of all improvement measures, whether with lean production or I4.0 methods. I4.0 can support real‑time data analysis, and value stream mapping is part of lean production. When combined, they serve as an excellent foundation for improvements:

2. Next is to analyze the data along your value streams. Production managers have their eyes on the flow of materials: “the material must flow.” But for customer satisfaction, in the end, just one KPI counts: delivery time to the customer . Did you manage to deliver on time or not? Or maybe even earlier? I4.0 can help you monitor this KPI and continuously improve upon it.

3. Implementing a digital twin of the physical devices provides the basis for analyzing your production data with I4.0. Take this data and process, visualize, and interpret it. Make the experts available where they are needed: at the machine, on the move with an iPad or smart watch, or on the dashboard at the control center.

4. I4.0 solutions are great, but make sure you deploy them in your production process where it makes sense to do so and where they will be of the greatest benefit. Using I4.0 solutions to improve production steps that are not optimized or are being phased out is not effective.
The practical example used in the training showed it was essential to shift demand management towards the customer in order to be able to react more quickly to their needs. An I4.0 solution would not have had the necessary acceleration at this point to meet the delivery time (delivery reliability).

5. I4.0 solutions must always fulfill two requirements:

  1. The actual function (e.g. KPI analysis for production performance)
  2. The necessary transparency so that experts can recognize and interpret any deviations (complying with the lean production principle of “transparency”)

The Bosch Production System is based on eight principles

6. Supplement I4.0 solutions selectively and depending on your needs. For example, assistant systems are extremely well suited for supporting employees in high-variance production (industry sector) to ensure optimum quality. By contrast, high-volume production (automotive) requires a completely different approach, such as identifying cause and effect relationships via data analytics in the event of problems.

What’s most important for combining I4.0 & lean production?

Delivering by when the customer has requested is the most relevant KPI. Therefore, monitoring the KPIs of the real-time value stream for delivery time should be a main focus. In our simulated production, these were the cycle time of process steps as well as the inventory of assemblies and finished goods. What is helpful and will greatly support you in accomplishing this main task? There’s no question: it’s user-friendly visualization and real-time data processing/delivery.

What’s in it for you?

All the above are my key takeaways from participating in the BPS & I4.0 training. If you are a production expert, I urge you to go and build on this unique expertise. Learn how to best combine the different approaches of lean production and I4.0 as well as existing solutions – to meet delivery times and continuously improve your production. Get to know our best friends personally!

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About the author

Stefanie Peitzker

Stefanie Peitzker

I have a graduate degree in management with a specialization in geography (University Augsburg, Germany). Since 2003, I work for Bosch Software Innovations: I have built up marketing for Visual Rules, our Business Rules Management System and contributed in winning customers around the globe. Since January 2009, I run the Marketing Solutions team at Bosch Software Innovations, an agile team of currently seven associates, all trying to permanently learn more about the customers´needs and market trends - focused on making software solutions a real experience. I have been writing for different technology magazines (e.g. JavaMagazine). When I don't work, I love to spend time - leisure as well as action - with my kids and in my running shoes around the Lake of Constance.