By Mark Edmondson, LEAN Affiliates
I made a day trip to the Assembly Technology Expo in Chicago last week. What an adventure. After all, here's an event dedicated to the latest automated innovations for manufacturing: Over 600 leading suppliers were there, from AGI Corporation (tooling and automated handling for PCB assembly) to Zierick Manufacturing (interconnection devices). I'm always fascinated with the latest technology for manufacturing, and it was fun to put my business card in all of those fish bowls and hope that I won something.
But as I looked over the Technology Pavilion and saw all of that equipment from all of those large companies, I couldn't help but wonder…
What if American industry spent just a fraction less on material handling equipment, and just a fraction more on improving their process flow?
What if American industry spent just a fraction less on “Machine Vision Systems” (it looked really cool), and just a fraction more on teaching their people with how to see waste?
What if American industry spent just a fraction less on automated storage and retrieval systems, and just a fraction more on creating level pull and reducing inventories?
I like cool new technology just as much as the next engineer, but I sense that most companies could make much more progress by shelving their next automation project and spending that next dollar on their processes, management systems, and developing people.
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