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Apply Lean Manufacturing Principles to Flow Cells

Apply Lean Manufacturing Principles to Flow Cells

Using flow cell structure in the manufacturing and logistics industry makes operations more cost-efficient. There are a variety of ways that products can be assembled using different configurations and components, depending on the needs and priorities of the company.


Lean manufacturing principles can be custom applied to operations through modularly designed flow cells. The units should be set up so that products can be easily reached for ergonomic purposes as well as efficiency. The set-up of each unit should be reconfigurable for utmost flexibility when changes occur.


There are three typical flow cell configurations. One is a single lane cell set-up. It features one return level and two levels for picking. A high-profile span track is typically used for this kind. The second configuration is a gravity conveyor on a line side pick cell. Demanding applications use a roller gravity conveyor or a skate wheel setup. Both types should have interchangeable beams on all sides for easy assembly. A third type of configuration is the line side storage cell. This features several levels of live storage and/or feed units. In order to allow for maximum facings in the least amount of space, deck span tracks can be used. Posts on all models configured should include either a foot plate or casters; the wheels can be the swivel or rigid variety.


Every operation is different. It is for this reason that the assembly of the flow cell should be made of standard pieces that can be mixed and matched to fit the specific requirements for maximum efficiency and compatibility whenever possible. Each sub-assembly work cell needs a minimum of 4 vertical posts to ensure stability. Additional vertical posts can be added in tandem if desired. They should have holes at specific convenient increments for attachments. These posts are typically attached to each other by horizontal beams on all four sides, using bolts to connect them. Once the frame has been established, the interior of the flow cell can be filled in with span tracks, such as a roller flow track for maximum efficiency.

The size and number of tracks needed is determined by the individual workstation’s purpose. Compatible trays can be attached at the end of each span track to angle product toward the product picker. The length of the tray comes in different standard sizes, depending on the needs of the picker. A workbench is an optional component which can be attached between the posts to assist in efficiency. Attaching a toolbar for accessories at the top of the workstation is another option.…

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Green Tea Extracts Plus Vitamin D May Boost Bone Health

Green Tea Extracts Plus Vitamin D May Boost Bone Health

Not too long ago, bone loss was thought to be an inevitable part of aging. Today, we know that although bone loss is a common occurrence in the elderly, making timely changes to diet and lifestyles can minimize the risk of bone loss during the aging process. Extensive research on herbs and nutrients has also introduced to us an endless array of possibilities for manufacturing a wider range of innovative nutritional supplement options for those who want to improve bone health.

The market for bone health supplements is broad and shows great potential for further growth. Both men and women suffer from bone loss. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), by the year 2020, 50 percent of Americans aged 50 and above will suffer from bone loss and will be at risk for fractures. The CDC has also bracketed people who may have a higher risk of suffering from bone loss, and therefore may considered the likely target market for bone health supplements:

Girls aged 9 to 12

Post-menopausal women

Older adults

Those whose diets are low in calcium

Research Shows Green Tea and Vitamin D May Boost Bone Health

A combination of green tea polyphenols and Vitamin D in the form of 1-alpha-OH-vitamin D3 (alfacalcidol) is believed to have protective effects on bone microstructure and strength. In a study published in The Journal of Nutritional Biochemistry (October 2010), scientists in Texas conducted an experiment on rats that were administered lipopolysaccharides to induce chronic inflammation. The rats were then administered a combination of green tea polyphenols and alfaclcidol. The study showed that this combination was able to reverse detrimental changes to the bone caused by chronic inflammation. Scientists concluded that green tea polyphenols and alfacalcidol may help to strengthen bone structure and improve bone health.

In an earlier study, the same research team had found epidemiological evidence showing a link between green tea consumption and prevention of age-related bone loss in elderly men and women. The study published in The Nutrition Research (July 2009) showed a correlation between green tea and bone metabolism. Scientists believe that the bioactive components found in green tea may be beneficial in improving bone mineral density, supporting osteoblastic activities and suppressing osteoclastic activities, thereby decreasing the risk of fractures in the elderly.

In addition to supporting bone health, both green tea and Vitamin D3 independently, are known for their numerous health benefits.

Both green tea and Vitamin D play a role in boosting immune health. Each shows benefits for protecting heart and skin health.

Green tea is famous for its powerful antioxidants called epigallocatecchin gallate, commonly called EGCG. EGCG helps to support cellular health and exhibits anti-vital and anti-bacterial properties. Because of its thermogenic properties, green tea extracts are popularly used in weight loss supplements.

Ongoing research on Vitamin D shows that its health benefits go well beyond the scope of bone health. A deficiency in Vitamin D has been linked to several chronic ailments including depression, type II diabetes, chronic weakness and blood pressure.…

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Medical Technology Marketing: The Race to Protect Thought-Leadership

Medical Technology Marketing: The Race to Protect Thought-Leadership

In a November/December 2010 issue of Medical Product Outsourcing magazine, Group Editor Chris Delporte addressed the concern that the U.S. medical device industry may have lost their edge.

He offers good news and not-so-good news from a recent PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP report titled “Medical Technology Innovation Scorecard: The race for global leadership.”

The report affirms that, thanks to decades of innovation dominance, the U.S. will continue to lead the world in medical technology for the foreseeable future. But… emerging markets are not to be discounted.

In every way, shape and form they’re developing innovations that could enable them to surpass developed countries in providing high-value medical device technology and healthcare.

Taking all this in to consideration, my question is, what are U.S. medical device companies doing to effectively communicate their value?

It is absolutely imperative to design, develop, and manufacture cost-effective, safe, reliable, cutting-edge, medical devices-no question. But if you are not effectively communicating that value, what impact might that have on your competitive advantage?

From my content marketing perspective, it seems as though many medical device technology companies are still relying on the same ol’, traditional means to promote their products and innovations. Unfortunately, they are missing vast opportunities to convey their thought-leadership, establish trust, and highlight their pioneering technologies. This, in turn, affects growth, revenue, and competitive advantage.

The good news is that many medical device companies are recognizing this.

These innovative companies are:

integrating blogs and newsletters-with consistent, relevant posts

publishing frequent, insightful articles in trade journals and magazines

getting actively engaged in social media

revamping their value propositions

targeting their audience to communicate more effectively

and providing customer-centric content in their marketing materials-from their website to their White Papers.

Just as there is a silver lining to the threat of rapidly emerging medical device markets (the U.S. still rocks in this arena), there is also for medical device marketing.

More and more medical technology companies are appreciating that staying “cutting-edge,” “relevant,” and “effective” does not just apply to developing an innovating device. It also relates to getting that message out to the world.

As Delporte astutely notes in his Editor’s letter, “Perhaps more so than any other moment in medtech’s history in the United States, have so many factors and stakeholders had the power to make or break the viability and dominance of our industry in the long-term.”

So my question to you, medical device marketers, is: Do you know what your content role is?…

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Design Engineers Reducing Cost Early In the Product Development Lifecycle

Design Engineers Reducing Cost Early In the Product Development Lifecycle

When OEMs are trying to reduce costs and maximize profits… estimating is notA�a matter ofA�”prescience”…A�itA�requires manufacturing knowledge.

For original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) to attain, maintain and excel profitable growth, “cost reduction” needs to be at the forefrontA�of the minds of more engineers — as opposed to guesstimating orA�leaving it to rest onA�some sort of assumption.

Design engineers, for example, focused and well-knowledged on designing parts, need estimating tools or cost estimators, by their side,A�to help influence their selection of lower-cost part features.

“At the end of the day, its about sales and profits — it doesn’t matter how great the design… if no one will purchase an overpriced product!”

Determining the cost of modifying part features and how they change the total cost early in the design phase shouldn’t be left in the hands of any kind of “guessing” game or “prediction” strategy. Engineers simply need information, most likely through a program that includes and maintains manufacturing data, one that alsoA�reveals whether a proposed feature increases the cost, has a neutral impact, or lowers the overall cost of the part.

“Often times, design engineers exhibitA�creative design intelligence, only to find out later theA�designA�exceeded theA�budget. WhenA� elapses and great expense may occur.”

If information is provided early enough in the design phase, it could improve procurement decisions, shorten production startup times, and reduce or prevent lost profits from last minute or ongoing, costly redesigns.A�When caught up in an ever-circling “redesign loop”, excessA�labor may greatly increase part costs, and theA�delays for “product-to-market” will likely exasperate sales and management.

Using cost estimating software can dramatically affect the outcomeA�during this process.

Estimating the cost of part features, quickly and accurately, is critical for the success of any manufacturer. Not just for those who make parts, but for OEMs who procure them, as well. Estimating software can provide quick guidance and help engineers who design parts, remain focused on what they do best. There is a wide array of both short-term and long-term benefits, especially when using a system specifically configured for their manufacturing needs.

A problem faced by many OEMs occurs when managementA�ignores the necessary commitment to engage and follow through using an estimating system – early on. Identifying ways to reduce part costs can be determined anywhere throughout the product development lifecycle, however, waiting until the procurement phase, in some cases, may be too late for measurable savings.

Estimating software that includes templates, cost models and security features canA�helpA�guide more users. Even designers who are not manufacturing engineers can get quick answers. These software features open the door for more people, not just estimators, to achieve more consistent long-term results between estimates and among users.

Spreadsheets, on the other hand, may be recognized as a powerful next step from manual methods, butA�their limitations eventually has a tendency to impede upon its long-term performance.A�For instance, file maintenance, associated with spreadsheets, can have a negative return-on-investment (ROI) as the system grows and files become separated. Updating data in theA�estimates and quotations become tedious and error-prone.…

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Lean Manufacturing Will Help Increase Profit Through Waste Elimination

Lean Manufacturing Will Help Increase Profit Through Waste Elimination

Most studies indicate that a large proportion of our time is spent doing non-value added tasks. Lean manufacturing consultants can show you how to increase profit through waste elimination, waste reduction and waste prevention.

It’s incredible how much time is spent conducting activities that create unnecessary waste; waste is moving products around, waiting for product or information, dealing with quality problems, chasing suppliers, fixing mechanical breakdowns and much more. In reality, companies that are not lean spend by far too much time on activities that are irrelevant. More time needs to be spent on adding value to the product and a lean manufacturing consultant can show you how.

There can be a huge difference made to your business if these wasteful activities can be reduced and if employees spend more time doing what the customer really wants. Lean will very simply reduce your costs and therefore increase your profits.

Waste reduction is a major component of lean manufacturing.

Value Add vs Non-Value Add

There are two parts to any work, a portion that adds value and a portion that does not add value, but what is “value add”? Something adds value if it physically alters the product or service to what the customer truly wants.

If you think about it, you are paying for every non-value adding activity in your company; the cost of each comes directly out of profits. Each non-value adding operation you can eliminate will add to your profit and this in turn, will please shareholders.

Non-Value adding operations are simply waste. Something is only adding value if it meets an explicit customer requirement and cannot be shown to be performed more economically. Implementing lean manufacturing can help you to reduce or eliminate these wastes.

The Wastes

Transportation: The movement of products between different operations and locations. Of course transportation cannot be totally eliminated but more often than not many manufacturers are poorly organized and transportation of goods within a warehouse to external transportation is more often than not lean.

Inventory: Generally the vast amounts of material held as both finished product and work in progress are driven by traditional manufacturing’s tendency to run enormous batches to maximize machine efficiency and to insulate against problems. Lean manufacturing can change this.

Motion: The unnecessary movement of a machine or a person. For example, picking up heavy items at floor level to relocate to a workable height or machines that have to travel excessive distances before actual work commences.

Waiting: People or machinery that sits idle waiting for previous operations, item delivery, information, problem solving, or other potential interruptions.

Overproduction: Producing an order that the customer does not want until a later date leads to unnecessary inventory.

Over-Processing: Doing unnecessary work such as polishing surfaces that are never seen.

Defects: The products that are incorrectly manufactured that leads to reproducing, scrap, delays, additional paperwork, additional employee hours, etc.

A lean manufacturing consultant will show you how your company will eliminate all these wastes and maximize profits.…

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Ideal Size for Custom Plush Toys

Ideal Size for Custom Plush Toys

If you’re like most people, you probably chanced upon this page because you’re looking for stuffed toy ideas. Yes, it’s true. There are now a lot of people who are on the lookout for the next big thing in custom plush toys. It’s hard to blame you or them. They do look very attractive from a profitability standpoint. As a bonus, it’s very easy to come up with ideas. You just need to sit back with a pen and paper and the ideas will start flowing in.

But once you do have your ideas, there are a few things that you have to consider. Some people think that good stuffed toy ideas are the only thing that they need to be successful. This is true to some extent. Armed with custom plush toys that were taken from great ideas, you can earn a lot of money from them. However, why settle for good if you can go for something great? All you need to do is to find the best idea that you have and work on it to make the best even better.

For example, did you know that the size makes a lot of difference? If you really put some thought into the size of your toys, you can make them more attractive. This is why you should really plan the size. Here are some things that you have to consider:

Who is your target market?

Sure, you can just create custom plush toys for everyone. It’s not really a bad idea, per se. After all, kids and adults of all ages appreciate them. However, you can come up with better stuffed toy ideas if you’re going to zero in on a specific age range. For example, it’s a good idea to make something smaller for toddler. A good size is 12″ because it’s big enough for cuddling while it’s small enough not to overwhelm them. It’s also a good size because kids can put them inside their bags. We all know that toddlers and kids develop emotional bonds with their stuffed toys so it’s a good idea to make something that they can bring wherever they go.

If you’re targeting an older market like teenagers or young adults, you can make really big ones. They would be a hit during Christmas and Valentine’s Day because they’re perfect as gifts to loved ones.

Do you want it to be a collectors’ item?

One of the best stuffed toy ideas is to make custom plush toys that are collectors’ items. If this is the case for you, it’s a good idea to make something small. Think “Beanie Babies” small. They were phenomenal because collectors scrambled to complete the whole set. It’s safe to say that the small size added to its appeal. After all, it would be pretty hard to collect toys that are 2 feet in height and width.

How much do you want them to cost?

If you put out great products, people will check them out no matter how expensive they are. Generally speaking, bigger custom plush toys cost more because production cost is higher with them. It would depend on your budget. If you have a big budget, then you can put out bigger and more expensive toys. If you only have a small budget, you can focus on something smaller and just target collectors and toddlers.

Still, everything will start with stuffed toy ideas so come up with your own ideas today.…

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Management Improvement Philosophies: Ya Gotta Love The Bigots

Management Improvement Philosophies: Ya Gotta Love The Bigots

Modern social media provides immediate interaction and the ability to observe an immediacy of attitudes. Recently, this author observed a back and forth set of blog posts on LinkedIn. On one side was a person who appeared to be an experienced and thoughtful business professional. On the other side was an expert in Lean Accounting. Both obviously knew what they were talking about.

Lean Accounting is a management philosophy that extends the Lean Manufacturing philosophy. In turn, Lean Manufacturing seeks to eliminate waste in manufacturing. Lean Accounting extends Lean into costing systems.

Eliminate waste! Now that is something that every business should strive for. No one supports encouraging waste. Everyone in their right mind must strongly support eliminating waste wherever it is.

However, the problem comes when an improvement philosophy becomes the “only possible solution” to all problems. And ultimately, if you’re not doing X (the favorite improvement philosophy), you are just not with it. Now we have a bigot. An even worse situation is when a bigot misrepresents competing philosophies to build up his case or cause.

Personally, this author is an advocate of Activity-Based Cost(ABC) and Activity-Based Management(ABM) and their combination Activity-Based Cost Management (ABCM). (Obviously we have our share of three letter acronyms.) ABC also strives to eliminate waste but adds costing methodologies to the equation. Properly used, ABC will help attack waste first where it matters most.

ABC has its share of bigots too! There was a time when, according to some, ABC could do everything – even slice bread.

For another example, while working for a software company, I was working on a project to model according to Theory of Constraints (TOC) methods in software originally designed for Activity-Based modeling. To over simplify, TOC seeks to improve business results by focusing on managing production constraints. TOC also has a significant number of powerful supporting methods. TOC advocates also claim to be eliminating waste.

On the project, we had the assistance of experienced top notch TOC advocates. We succeeded in creating a cost model that followed TOC principles. However, it was difficult at first to find the common elements of both methodologies. We had to peel back our rhetoric to find our points of agreement. We found a common enemy – Waste.

The challenge to all business professionals and consultants is to compare your methods to the best methods of competing philosophies. Do not compare your best to the worst of someone else. Much more can be gained by comparing the best to the best. In all business endeavors, waste is our common enemy. Waste is the enemy of profits.

Maybe we can even learn from one another and adopt what makes the most sense for our operating environments.…