How Air Casters Can Mitigate Waste in Manufacturing

Lean manufacturing is about eliminating waste in manufacturing processes. “Lean production is aimed at the elimination of waste in every area of production, including customer relations, product design, supplier networks and factory management,” says Dr. David Cochran, director of the Production System Design Laboratory at Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

Specifically, lean manufacturing processes aim to address waste in several key areas, including overproduction, wait times, excess work, unnecessary motion and transportation, and more. Adaptability plays a key role in reducing such waste. Industry Week puts it plainly: “Always keep in mind that flexibility is paramount.”

That’s where air casters – which enable manufacturers to quickly and easily reposition and reconfigure production lines in minutes – can help. But how does this translate into reduced waste in manufacturing operations?

1: Reducing excess processing

Excess processing means that the manufacturer is including unnecessary steps in their production process, often related to suboptimal facility layout or workflow. Manufacturers should map their production line from start to finish and adjust to increase efficiencies. That may necessitate moving machines into a new configuration (e.g., a U-shaped workflow rather than linear), reducing space between job stations, or completely shifting the production line around.

  • With air casters, machines up to 5,000-lbs. can be moved by a single operator in minutes.

2: Minimizing Motion

Motion refers to all the movement that has to happen – including moving raw materials, people, and equipment – during the manufacturing process. And as Machine Metrics, an Internet of Things data platform specializing in manufacturing, writes, “Motion costs money.” But more motion means more than just more time and money, it also introduces more risk, with more potential points of failure and injury. Manufacturers should locate equipment and supplies necessary to the manufacturing process as closely together as possible to minimize motion.

  • Air casters can be used to move entire production lines on the fly into more efficient configurations. They also fit within the footprint of the object being moved so they require less space and clearance than other material handling systems.

3: Eliminating Non-Utilized Talent

Anytime workers sit idle, the manufacturer is wasting time and money. Think about how parts are transported from one station to another. If the movement method requires a certified operator – like a forklift or crane – workers may find themselves sitting around while waiting on that operator. Or the operators themselves may need to wait on the production process to finish at a given station. Either way, if people are just standing around, the process is generating waste.

  • Air casters require only minimal training and no certification to operate. And it takes only one or two operators to move multi-ton loads, minimizing wasted time and labor.

4: Cutting Overhead

Manufacturers spend a lot of money on overhead and operational costs. They may accept these expenses as “the cost of doing business,” but inefficiencies can lead to unnecessary waste. Consider a facility that regularly uses forklifts. These complex wheeled vehicles require fuel and regular maintenance and repairs, mandate training and certification for operators, suffer wear-and-tear that increase lifetime cost of ownership, and cause wear-and-tear on the facility itself – especially the floor. All of these are costs that can be eliminated by using more cost-efficient forms of material handling.

  • Air casters require little maintenance, require no “fuel” beyond standard shop air, do not require specialized training, and thanks to extremely low floor loading impose little-to-no wear-and-tear or damage to the facility.

Altogether, most manufacturers have significant opportunities to reduce waste and the associated costs, but they don’t always have the means at hand to make their production processes more efficient. The right material handling solution can make all the difference.

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