The Lean Dream

Posted on 29 Mar 2010 by The Manufacturer

A new collaborative network for the appreciation and dissemination of lean practices in manufacturing launched today at Rexroth Bosch Group, Gloucestershire.

The new Lean Factory Group comprises a diverse group of organisations which each bring a particular area of lean expertise and experience to the enterprise. Bosch have launched the Lean Factory Group in a number of European countries but today marked the birth of the UK branch.

Here the group is so far formed of seven service and equipment suppliers including SICK Sensor Intelligence, SSI Schaefer and iCart, but the ‘partners in excellence’ made it clear today that they would welcome complimentary additions to their ranks. “Any company which could enhance our simulations and understanding of lean would be welcomed by us” said Mark Dash, solutions manager at Rexroth Bosch. “The only condition we have agreed as a group is that new additions will not be direct competitors for existing members.”

The Lean Factory Group aim to bring together different perspectives on lean to highlight the benefits that can be gained through its implementation and encourage suppliers, manufacturers, distributors and customers to work together in looking for continuous improvement opportunities. All members firmly believe that lean excellence will be the defining characteristic of successful post recession companies.

To support their mission the consortium have constructed a live simulation manufacturing cell which they are able to dismantle and reassemble as they travel on their projected ‘road show’. In this cell the manifestations of value-adding lean efficiencies in time, space and process are demonstrated and the theories of Kanban, single piece flow, quality assurance, 5S and more are made comprehensible .
Taking advantage of the hands-on offerings of the Lean Factory Group is free of charge to all interested parties. “We are not a commercial operation” says Philip Schûrle, director of the Leonardo Group – another of the constituent companies. “We are simply friends in lean and I believe we represent an approach, a model which will be the future of business and industry.”

Subject matter addressed by the UK Lean Factory Group ranged over work content and workplace design, what to look out for when dimensioning Kanban loops, the key principles of value stream mapping and visual management and the design of heijunka boards. Looking forward to the growth of the group it is hoped that topics already included in the German and Scandinavian versions, such as the harmonisation of ERP technology with lean principles, will be included. “There is a lot of understanding to be built around this” says Schûrle. “The balancing of push and pull approaches in demand planning and inventory management needs a lot of work before it is optimised and this is something which SAP work with us on in Germany. It would be good to have this in the UK also.”

The collaborative ethos of the Lean Factory Group has allowed innovation in the development of new products and processes, such as ergonomic modular work stations and flexible transportation and storage units. Their relationship stands as an example to other manufacturing networks of the way in which better communication of needs and values can open up potential for mutual profit and new markets.
To find out more about the Lean Factory Group please visit the website

There will also be the chance to compare how far different ERP vendors have come in incorporating lean principles into their offerings at The Manufacturer’s own ERP Connect 2010 event on April 22. SAP are among our sponsors alongside Microsoft, IBM, EPICOR, Infor, QAD, IFS and more.