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Lean Manufacturing Articles

TRANSLATING MATERIAL FLOW CONCEPTS TO INFORMATION FLOW

Fortunately the same principles and techniques that have been used to improve productivity of direct labor and materials can be easily adapted to improve information flow processes. Our information factory has raw mate­rial (data) inputs. These inputs are processed and become information outputs. This material data comes from end customers, material suppliers, sales people, regulatory agencies, shareholders, government, and on and on. There is also data that arises from many internal sources: pro­duction data, design specifications, policies, procedures, employee feedback, etc. As with the flow of materials, this data flow arrives and moves through a series of steps, which may include storage, transportation, and transfor­mation. Delays, errors, overproduction (ever feel like you are getting way more information than you need?) in­crease the cost of information, without adding value.

Along the flow path, information is received (via pa­per, e-mail, phones, faxes, mainframe screens) and stored (in the human brain, in electronic database, and paper files). Operations such as assembly (collection of data from multiple sources) and transformation (calcula­tions, analysis, and decisions) are performed on the data. These operations have setup times (data query setup,

spreadsheet setup), batches (month-end closing), queues (the in-box), and lead times. Operations also have spe­cific capacities, usually labor-related, and bottlenecks that limit throughput. Variation in timing and quality can occur as it does in any physical material flow or operation. Defects are errors in the data arising from inaccurate decisions, data entry errors, non-standard­ized procedures, and poor training. Administrative func­tions are the work centers that transform data into information. Computers and software are the machines that automate information operations while telecom­munications automate the movement of information.

To Be Continued

For balance of this article, click on the below link:

Lean Manufacturing Articles and click on Series 14


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