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."