by Kevin Jones, CEO/Founder, Ectobox

Are your Lean efforts as effective as they could be? Where do you get data to identify and monitor the impact of your Lean efforts in your factory? The answers to these questions can have a significant effect on the ROI of your lean efforts. The best results of lean work comes from having accurate, real-time data. Without it, your results will suffer.

I’m sure you remember that the essence of lean is to reduce waste in your plant. People are often surprised to hear the statistic that nearly 80% – 95% of all activities in producing your products for your customers are non-value-add. That means there is a significant amount of wasted motion, transportation, waiting, and more going on in your plant.

What is your process to identify that waste? One way to identify waste in terms of lean is to create a value stream map (VSM) of your plant’s current operations and a VSM of your plant’s preferred future state. Creating the VSM includes gathering data about the manufacturing processes, like cycle time, takt time, uptime, production lead time, processing time, transportation time, production counts, and other values. Users of the VSM then review the details to identify where waste is and how it can be reduced or eliminated.

The key to finding non-value-add activities in your plant is the data. Those values are captured on the VSM, like cycle time, wait time, transportation time, and so forth. Everyone knows the expression “garbage in, garbage out.” It applies well in this situation. Suppose the data gathered and placed into the VSM isn’t accurate. In that case, the VSM user may incorrectly identify a source of waste or misapply resources to reduce a given non-value-add activity.

Here’s a case in point: a company we worked with had cycle times entered into their ERP system for a specific product at a particular station. The cycle times were defined when the product was set up, and the values were theoretical, i.e., they weren’t accurate nor current by any stretch. Sometime later, someone else in the plant looked at those cycle times, they thought they were valid, and applied them to a VSM. Long story short, they focused on solving the wrong problem and ended up wasting much time, effort, and money and did not fix anything valuable.

Where can you get the best data to use in identifying wastes in your manufacturing plant? You can get it directly from the source, straight from the machines, processes, and machine operators in real-time. IIoT (Industrial Internet of Things) solutions, even small, inexpensive pilot projects, can put a couple of sensors in place and a small dashboard. Within hours or days, you can have real-time, accurate data on the process. The small IIoT investment can then enable you to 1) add the exact values to the VSM, and 2) based on your lean efforts to eliminate waste, watch the trends of that data to prove or disprove the lean efforts were successful. [This blogpost explains how data is used in lean activities to drive a better ROI, along with some compelling examples.] With this more accurate data, IIoT can provide threefold or more value on existing lean efforts.


Side Note: NWIRC will host a free webinar, Practical Lessons on Lean and IIOT, on February 18 featuring Sara Hanks, Senior Director of Data & Analytics and CEO of Leverage4Data, Kevin Jones, Founder and CEO of Ectobox, Inc., and David Grafton, VP of Engineering and QA at Ectobox, Inc. Takeaways include five ways to add impact to lean efforts using IIoT. More details at