Lead time optimisation

Arianna Ferioli

What is lead time?

The word lead time is an expression that is often used under/as part of logistics and industrial production and indicates a fundamental importance parameter for our company’s prosperity. But, concretely, do we all really understand what lead time is?

Generally, as we know, the lead time indicates the passing time between the customer’s order and the requested product’s delivery. Decreasing the lead time in the company has become for many of us a mantra, because it means showing its customers to be ready to quickly meet their demands with efficient production planning and, therefore, retain them.

However, if we look at the lead time overall, from the arrival of product email order to the physical delivery to the customer, it becomes really difficult to think about how to reduce it with simple concrete interventions on our internal organisation. In this situation, though/however, we are helped by the oriental wisdom that teaches: “The man who wants to move a mountain, begins by carrying small stones”.

We can then think to deal with the lead Time optimisation  subdividing/dividing it in so many small crossing times that refer to the various phases of the business life: the office acquires job, the planning one (if it is to elaborate a new product), the logistics one and the time spent in order to produce, the so-called production lead time.

In this article we want to talk about how to optimise, through the use of a dedicated management software, the lead time of production, one of the KPI (key performance indicator) more important for every manufacturing company.


Time measurement methods analysis becomes digital

The idea of checking the time taken by the workers to carry out every single productive operation dates back to the invention of the modern factory, in the early twentieth century. The analysis of time measurement methods has become, since then, one of the most important tasks for those who deal with production management and an important subject of study. There is no doubt, however, that the approach to time measurement methods analysis has, of course, changed a great deal from the days of Taylor and Ford to the modern 4.0 Factory.

If in the past the obsession of men with the chronometer, that measured the production times behind the shoulders of the workers on the assembly line, was to assess/consider who was the fastest and most accurate worker, Today we understand that the profitability of a company grows by reducing waste and creating value, not by squeezing our employees to work faster and faster.

It is the lesson of Lean Thinking, the lean thinking that has revolutionised, in the last thirty years, the way of seeing the corporate organization as a whole/overall, and, in particular, the policies with which we deal with the examination of production times measurement methods.

Today, in fact, a company that wants to be successful on the global market must look above all at some production KPIs related to efficiency and waste reduction, including:

  • production efficiency, measuring the ratio between the number of pieces produced and the number of expected pieces;
  • the quantity of the production waste, understood as a percentage of raw material that does not become a finished product;
  • the quality of the production, that is the relationship between pieces conforming to the specifications and total of the produced pieces;
  • the set-up time of each machine, that is the time that is used to make a machine able to perform a different work cycle than the previous one.

All these parameters, then, must be put in correlation with the management of the shifts of the operators and with the state of maintenance of the machines and plants, generating a mass of data where you could also lose easily without the help of a production management software.


The advantages of having a software to optimise lead time

The philosophy of 4.0 Industry is based on the idea of exploiting the possibilities offered by the internet of things, that is, the ability of machine tools and industrial plants to communicate with each other and with office computers to exchange data and receive orders.

In other words, today our 5-axis CNC milling machine can report the wear state of its tools, the raw material warehouse tell us what stocks are present and, Perhaps, compare them with the data of the computer of the purchasing office to see if all the necessary arrivals have been expected not to stop production. We can easily know how many actual hours of operation each of our machine tools has carried out in a day or have an immediate eye on the percentage of non-compliant parts detected by the quality control, turn by turn, maybe crossing it with the identity of the operators who worked to realise the different lots.

Then, it appears clear how a control software of production is an indispensable instrument in order to optimise the lead time. In fact, its ability to collect data, process them and make them clearly available to the managers of the production line, gives the opportunity to make targeted and informed decisions on how to re-organise production processes and internal organisation in order to produce in a streamlined and efficient way.

In this way, we will always have available the production progress divided machine by machine, we will be able to easily identify the critical issues and immediately evaluate how to deal with them. With this punctual and efficient production control tool it will finally become clear, for example, what are the bottlenecks in our production flow, which machines are to be overhauled for an increase of non-compliant parts, how the production times of each line vary according to different parameters and, above all, what is the progress in real time of each of our orders.

To learn more about how to optimise your company’s lead time with a production management software, contact us at Logikamente without hesitation and contact us for dedicated professional advice.