Design Engineering

Tips for combining automation with lean manufacturing

By Design Engineering staff   

Automation Motion Control tutorial

Automation technology helps implement lean manufacturing solutions.

Bosch Rexroth is offering tips on how to use automation technology as a tool to help solve lean manufacturing challenges. Developed with lean manufacturing expert Jamie Flinchbaugh, Rexroth’s “Lean Manufacturing and Automation Technology” podcast puts to rest the myths about the roles of automation and lean and focuses more on when it makes sense to consider automation solutions to lean manufacturing problems.

Flinchbaugh, who is co-founder of the Lean Learning Center and co-author of the popular book The Hitchhiker’s Guide to Lean, emphasizes that automation can actually eliminate error and waste, as well as reduce cycle time and streamline processes. He says automation offers significant potential for manufacturers implementing lean, as long as it is applied to the specific challenges that it is best suited to solve.


For example, when evaluating whether to implement automation in a lean strategy, consider these tips:

• Use a Plan-Do-Check-Act process of developing and testing a hypothesis before investing time and money into an automation solution. Model the improvement the automation may achieve, test it, and then see if it can be used to prevent a given problem.

• Look for automation design features to be inherently flexible. The more flexibility the features have, the better chance a lean operation has to improve. Test how effective a given technology is for a specific situation or challenge, and then pick the most flexible technology.

• Be aware of the difference between using automation to solve a specific job or task problem, vs. using automation in the context to the whole manufacturing process. You can automate just one step and make the entire process more efficient.

• Lean is about continuous improvement and reducing errors. Automation can be used in error proofing, for example, to warn when an error has occurred.

“Lean Manufacturing and Automation Technology” is episode number eight in Rexroth’s lean manufacturing podcast series, available for listening or free download from the company’s website at The podcast series is also available from the iTunes podcast library and other podcast directories on the web.

Developed by Bosch Rexroth’s Linear Motion and Assembly Technologies group, each eight to 10-minute lean manufacturing podcast episode presents guest experts and information to help manufacturers and OEMs understand and apply lean principles and practices in their businesses.


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