Smart devices create smart production lines, enabling a significant level of manufacturing agility that makes
it possible to connect customer needs with
a company’s ability to deliver a product
on demand. Today’s manufacturers must
be better at adapting quickly to specific
consumer preferences. Add in new
technology that creates an unprecedented
feedback loop between companies and their
customers in which products could actually
be designed – or highly influenced – by
the end-user, and you have the makings for
a revolution in how products are designed
and produced. The question is how do
manufacturers position themselves to thrive
in this new world?
In response to these technological
advances, and powered by investments in
manufacturing operations IT, the traditional
practices of Lean Manufacturing have grown
to revolve around Pull strategies, wherein
supply chain, procurement, production and
distribution are based on the pull of demand.
Designing an operating model to best leverage Pull processes is a challenge.
The current challenge is that various manufacturing IT systems seldom work well
together. What is needed is a new, smarter
approach. Think of a flexible and scalable
Pull platform as being the central nervous
system of plant operations, and ERP as
providing the direction on where to go.
Together, these systems provide the foundation for success in an increasingly fast-paced,
complex and globalized marketplace.
While Pull processes are generally recog-
nized as central to Lean Manufacturing, these
processes can be applied to more than mate-
rial flow and production activities. For exam-
ple, multi-domain Pull processes can apply
to quality, maintenance and even knowledge
management. Adding intelligence to Lean
Manufacturing processes brings us to a new
generation of capabilities we call Smart-Pull.
In order to expand the scope of Pull,
all functional domains of manufacturing
operations management, including quality,
maintenance, time and attendance, material, production and intelligence gathering
needs to be captured by the enterprise Pull
platform. This platform must have built-in
machine integration capabilities for connecting to a wide variety of automation equipment and smart devices. The vast amounts of
real-time events data created by connected
manufacturing processes can then be used to
generate insights and analytics. What results
is a wealthy collection of manufacturing
intelligence which, if embedded into business
processes, can then be used to realize the
transformative advantages of Smart-Pull.
Seven Ways to Unleash the Power
Second or higher order statistics (e.g.,
standard deviations, moving averages)
derived from “first-order data” (collected
directly from an event) are under-utilized in
business processes. Given the capabilities of
Smart-Pull, this higher order information can
be synthesized in real-time, and applied to
In traditional Kanban processes, a fluctuation at one stage is easily amplified by
responses from the next stage, leading to
further fluctuations down the chain. Smart-Pull can help to improve the robustness of
Pull processes while avoiding unnecessary
gyrations of inventory levels by, for example,
enabling real-time visibility to Kanban status
and greater flexibility with the design and
effectiveness of Kanban or Pull loops. Based
on such access to real-time status of Kanban,
advanced algorithms can be implemented to
actively monitor “traffic jams” in Kanban
loops and adjust control parameters accordingly.
3) Complement Push with Pull, and
• Use Pull to trigger stable demand items,
and Push for irregular items.
• Use Pull to improve data accuracy in
• Use Pull to simplify plan and order management.
• Use Pull to improve detailed scheduling.
4) Improve human decisions with Pull.
Smart-Pull could enhance human deci-sion-making, especially when dealing with
uncertain situations that are complex and
rare. Moreover, Smart-Pull processes have
the capability to sense and filter a large volume of real-time events, triggering active
notifications to the appropriate individuals.
5) Make Lean initiatives stick.
Many organizations are challenged to make
Lean initiatives “stick” beyond their initial
of Smart Pull