ECI computer integrated manufacturing (CIM)
Lean Manufacturing Explained

Lean manufacturing is explained primarily as the continuous improvement of your manufacturing processes by eliminating waste and narrowing the gap between initial order and fulfillment. If lean manufacturing processes are implemented effectively, they can significantly increase your plant's productivity and profits. On the other hand, a poorly managed attempt at lean manufacturing can prove to be demoralizing and counter productive for the entire production team.

ECI has been helping manufacturing plants apply sound lean manufacturing processes since 1984. If you take a quick look at our client list, you'll notice that some of the world's most successful HVAC, refrigerator and electrical appliance manufacturers have trusted ECI as their Total Quality partner.

Total Quality is the goal of your continuous improvement process, and ECI's Integrated Process Control System is designed to help you reach that goal through the implementation of our unique approach to lean manufacturing.

Pre-Process Testing for Eliminating Waste

A key concept in lean manufacturing is eliminating waste. In response to this need, ECI encourages the use of "Pre-Process Testing". The idea behind pre-process testing is that you test your unit in stages, insuring the integrity of prior processes before adding value to the unit. You don’t want to install components D, E and F if processes A, B, and C were not completed satisfactorily. For instance, a refrigerator manufacturer wouldn't want to charge a coil with refrigerant before the coil had been tested for brazing defects and leaks. Obviously, such a practice could result in the waste of refrigerant, time consuming refrigerant reclamation and costly reworks.

It would be preferable to find and repair leaks prior to the evacuation and charge process, eliminating reworks and the compromised quality that comes from repairing a leak in an already charged unit. LeakProof™, ECI's Integrity and Helium Leak Testing Module, is designed specifically for this.

Computer Integration for Streamlining Your Manufacturing Processes

Integration and automation also need to be considered if lean manufacturing is to be properly explained. Tightly integrated, computer generated real-time information makes the transition to lean manufacturing achievable. All of ECI’s testing stations are networked with our Integrated Process Control System (IPCS). Units pass from assembly processes to testing procedures seamlessly along the same assembly line. Each unit is given a unique bar code upon its entry into the line. That bar code is scanned at each successive station, so that all of its assembly processes and test procedures can be logged into the administrator’s database. Since the entire system is integrated and interconnected, a unit that fails at a previous station is not allowed to pass through consecutive stages, minimizing the possibility of defects slipping through the cracks. Logging test parameters and results with unit serial numbers provides manufacturers with a wealth of information used in product research and development. Key component verification also guarantees that the correct parts are installed by the operator and allows for complete supplier accountability and traceability in instances of component recall.

Total Quality Control through Full-Function Testing

As we've already mentioned Total Quality is the goal of lean manufacturing. In addition to Pre-Process testing, manufacturers are recognizing the necessity of testing the completed unit with a Full-Function Automated Performance Test before it is shipped to the consumer. It’s one thing to know that all the right parts were added to the unit, but it’s infinitely better to know that when the unit is plugged in it runs as it was designed to.

ECI's AutoTest™ computer-based automated test stations have been developed for a number of products, including refrigerators, air conditioners, furnaces, washers and dryers. An automated, computer-controlled sequence of operation eliminates operator dependency. All collected test data for each piece of equipment is automatically written to the database per serial number. Highly reliable, entirely adaptable, all of AutoTest's equipment and software is custom-built from design to installation to test all the functions of your particular unit.

From ECI's perspective, Full-Function Testing is a necessary part of your lean manufacturing program. By catching defects in the plant, you will not only significantly reduce (practically eliminate) warranty claims, but you will also improve customer goodwill. That means repeat business and growing market shares. It's always more cost effective to get it right the first time.

To further enhance your lean manufacturing and continuous improvement efforts, engineers and plant managers can run detailed reports on the extensive data collected by ECI's test stations. This enables you to continuously tighten your test parameters and weed out design and/or process flaws, which can be particularly useful in new product developments.

Just In Time (JIT) Production & Demand Stream Technology

At the heart of "lean manufacturing" is the idea of Just in Time Production. This approach to manufacturing is explained by the desire to keep surplus inventory to a minimum, but it can be a daunting challenge to have a fluid production schedule that has to respond to the changing demands of the market and unpredictable order fulfillment. Changing production line-ups can lead to operator confusion, incorrect assembly, inconsistent quality and inefficient production. In order to meet these demands, plant managers are looking to streamline their production lines by implementing Demand Stream Technology (DST) and real-time order status tracking.

To facilitate this lean manufacturing approach, ECI's UnitTrack™ Order Status Software allows you to view the order status of your units in real-time. Unit serial numbers are associated with order (lot) numbers. Each IPCS station throughout the assembly line uses the unit serial number to record collected data. When an order number is entered into UnitTrack, the program queries the Microsoft® SQL Server database as to the status (or position) of the serial numbers associated with the given order number.

Click here for a more detailed discussion on Demand Stream Technology.

If you would like to learn more about how ECI can help your plant implement effective lean manufacturing processes, or if you would like to have the benefits of lean manufacturing further explained, please request our free Information Packet and Report–Ranking Technology Providers.

demand flow technology info demand flow  ROI

E-mail us about your plant's needs,
or call 901-854-2123.