4 Ways Lighting Solutions Support Lean Manufacturing in the Pharmaceutical Industry
by Mark Lampert
Background and Driving Factors
A big trend in the pharmaceutical industry, lean principles emphasize using time and resources as efficiently as possible in order to reduce waste and focus on value-added activities. However, there are many ways time and resources can be wasted in the pharmaceutical factory. For example, ineffective error proofing and quality inspection procedures can result in product contamination and recalls, leading to both material waste as well as wasted production time. In addition, communication throughout the factory can expend significant time and resources unless a there is solution in place to streamline messages.
How Lighting Solutions Support Lean Processes
A long-term solution to the challenge of waste must allow manufacturers to not only increase efficiency in the short term but also learn from inefficiencies and make data-driven adjustments for continuous improvement. Following are four examples of how lighting solutions can help increase efficiency by addressing common sources of wasted time and resources in pharmaceutical manufacturing.
1. Inspection Lighting Helps Reduce Wasted Materials and Production Time
2. Pick-to-Light Sensors Reduce Risk of Error in Assembly
Assembly processes can also be streamlined with the use of light. For example, in kitting applications, it is important to include all of the correct parts in each kit, and errors can occur if there are many different parts to remember or if an operator becomes distracted. To reduce the risk of error (such as skipped or duplicate parts), pick-to-light sensors can be interfaced with a process controller programmed with the correct assembly sequence in order to guide the assembler to the correct parts in the correct order.
As the assembler takes a part in sequence and breaks the beam, the sensor detects that the part was removed and it sends an output signal to the controller. The controller then verifies if the correct part was taken, and the controller signals the pick-to-light sensor of the next bin in the pick sequence to light up. If the assembler reaches into a bin out of sequence, the system can also be configured to signal the assembler that an incorrect pick has occurred.
A pick-to-light system increases task efficiency by simplifying job training, increasing quality control (no skipped parts), and reducing the need for rework and inspections. It also speeds the resumption of work after breaks and other distractions.
3. Indicator Lights Streamline Communication in the Visual Factory
4. Wirelessly-Connected Lights Enable Overall Equipment Effectiveness (OEE)
In order to ensure efficient processes throughout the pharmaceutical factory, machine operators must quickly and easily determine the status of machines. Tower lights equipped with wireless communication capabilities display a visual indication of an event for immediate action; plus, they can transmit wireless alerts to operators outside of the visual range. This helps ensure that operational problems are identified and addressed immediately, regardless of whether machine operator is physically present to see the visual indicator.
In addition, the wireless transmission of machine data can then be stored or long-term data logging and analysis, a critical capability of the IIoT. In other words, not only can operators respond to alerts quickly as they occur, but a history of alerts can also be stored and analyzed offline for use in OEE (Overall Equipment Effectiveness) calculations. This data can also be used for predictive maintenance, further saving costs and time.
About the Author
Mark Lampert is the Senior Business Development Manager for the pharmaceutical industry at Banner Engineering. Mark has been in the industrial automation industry since 1996, and has been with Banner since 1999. Mark holds a B.S. in Mechanical Engineering from the University of Minnesota, and an MBA from the University of Minnesota's Carlson School of Management.
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