One reason why lean manufacturing techniques are the order of the day is that it has become increasingly difficult to use low-cost labor as a principal means of gaining a competitive advantage. New production strategies that incorporate automation and process integration are turning out products ranging from simple components to complex systems with levels of precision and productivity that no amount of cheap human labor can match.
At Piasa, a producer of food additives in Monterrey, Nuevo Leon, Mexico, a comprehensive plan to automate and continuously update processes that were previously performed by human efforts will increase the company's output by 20 times its previous capacity.
"Making dramatic changes was vital to our future and competing with the major players," explains Ricardo Madrigal, a Vice President who manages Piasa's engineering and R&D. "To give an example, with the limitations of our human-assisted blending process it used to take 20 minutes to blend 1.5 tons of a product such as a seasoning. Now that same output can be completed in 20 seconds. That's a 60-fold improvement that comes from automating the process."