Big Data is Useful for Lean Manufacturers




In the article Lean and Big Data: How Manufacturing Is Getting Even Leaner, the author is examining case studies of lean manufacturers using big data to become leaner and more efficient.  According to McKinsey & Co., big data could be worth tens of billions of dollars for Lean manufacturers in the automotive, chemical, FMCG and pharmaceutical industries.  According to the article, a Manufacturing Execution System can generate big data on accuracy of downtime, waste, and WIP which is data that is traditionally used in lean systems.  The overall goal of any lean manufacturer is improved processes specifically through reduced waste and increased efficiencies.  It’s beginning to look like big data can be a great asset in this lean journey.

The cases described outline how big data has become so useful to manufacturers.  One instance was a two-billion-dollar company that uses big data analytics to analyze and understand the habits of repeat customers.  Another instance is that of Intel using predictive analytics to reduce the number of quality control tests on each processor, saving them 3 million dollars in manufacturing costs on that line of processors.  One final case is that of a steel manufacturer using the Monte Carlo simulation with historical data to identify previously unknown bottlenecks.  After the subsequent process improvements, the steel manufacturer saw a 20% increase in throughput.

Finally, big data can help manufactures form answers to two of their most complex questions –

Who is buying what, when, and at what price?

How can we connect what consumers hear, read and view to what they buy and consume?

It all boils down to customer loyalty and sales.  The managers helping make this transformation see the opportunity for lean data to improve their business, and they are taking advantage of it.  They know what data to use and how to use it, which is translating to significant cost savings and separation from the competition.  Those who don’t employ big data are seriously becoming at risk of being left behind.


Can you think of a reason why a lean manufacturer wouldn’t want to employ big data?

Do you think the biggest obstacle in using big data is know what data to actually use?

Do you know of any cases where useless big data was used poor decisions were made?

3D Printing: The Risks and Rewards

3D printing is an amazing new technology that inherently defines both the smart and lean manufacturing spaces. Many believe that it is the manufacturing process of the future. With so much hype surrounding 3D printing, the article “5 Ways 3D Printing Is Changing The Manufacturing Industry” ( does an excellent portrayal of some of the benefits, as well as one of the biggest concerns, regarding 3D printing.

So what are some of the main benefits? The article goes into depth about four of the most useful possibilities:

  1. More Custom-Built Products
  2. New Design Possibilities
  3. Easy Replacement Parts
  4. More Recycled Materials

While all four of these are pretty self-explanatory, a brief explanation of each will be given for a general understanding of the concepts. Because 3D printing is an additive manufacturing technology, many complex designs that wouldn’t normally be a possibility are now a reality. 3D printing allows for structures to be created in one piece, and any necessary additional or replacement parts can be designed and printed easily. Additionally, because many 3D printers use plastic as the main printing material, recycled plastic can be utilized and integrated back into the community.

What is the main concern? Because the designs for any 3D printing production are made and stored digitally, there is a high risk of piracy. In fact, this trend has already begun. Companies utilizing or designing 3D blueprints will have to take caution in not only how they are copyrighted, but how they are stored and secured. Despite this risk, it appears that in the eyes of many companies the rewards outweigh the risks.

3D Printing: The Future

When thinking about smart, lean ecosystems, 3D printing is inherently at the forefront of any discussion. 3D printing is at the peak of smart manufacturing, allowing anyone around the world to print any design. Likewise, in a space such as manufacturing which is known for its “subtractive manufacturing” methods, 3D printing involves “additive” technologies which reduce waste and time. With so much up-side, why haven’t more companies adopted 3D technologies? This is a difficult question to answer as each company has a unique response. Because of this, I thought it would be interesting to include the article “30 Most Innovative 3D Printing Companies 2016” ( to show not only which companies are actively utilizing this technology, but how they are doing it. These companies, and many others which did not make the list, come from countries all over the world, each with a different use for 3D technology. This exemplifies not only the flexibility this technology possesses, but the potential it empowers across virtually all future markets.

3D Printing: Smart and Lean

The article “How 3-D Printing is Revolutionizing Lean Manufacturing” explores 3D printing and its connection with both smart and lean manufacturing. What are smart and lean manufacturing? Smart manufacturing is utilizing concepts such as the Internet of Things to improve efficiency and quality. Lean manufacturing is the idea of eliminating waste to achieve the same goals as smart manufacturing. Inherently these two practices work in unison to create a low waste, inter-connected manufacturing environment.

To take it a step further, the article outlines eight reasons why 3-D printing and lean manufacturing go hand in hand. These reasons are:

  1. Easier prototyping
  2. More easily customize products
  3. More creativity and efficiency
  4. More consistency
  5. Shorter lead times
  6. Local manufacturing
  7. Lower prices
  8. New consumer demand

As stated in the article: “The leaner you are, the more you save and the more you create. The catalyst is 3-D printing.” As 3-D printing technology continues to increase in adoption and viability, the article estimates that we will likewise see an increase in lean workflows.