Lean Manufacturing and NPIP for Flexible Circuits


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Many companies are familiar with lean manufacturing concepts and have successfully used these techniques to improve manufacturing processes. Lean techniques, while most often used in printed circuit fabrication and assembly operations, can also be applied to nonmanufacturing processes. One such process is new part number introduction (NPIP). The main thrust of lean manufacturing is to eliminate or reduce waste. There are typically seven wastes (mudas), as defined by Toyota executive Taiicho Ohno, when he developed Toyota’s Production System (TPS)[1]. (“Muda” is a Japanese word meaning uselessness, idleness or other synonyms of waste.)  The seven mudas are:

  • Transport
  • Inventory
  • Motion
  • Waiting
  • Over-processing
  • Over-production
  • Defects

The typical part number startup for flexible circuits often can suffer from a number of those wastes. Certain waste items are specific to a part number (customer out of office, conflicts in documentation, iterative design conversations, etc.) or be ingrained as accepted gaps in a supplier’s product launch system. As part of a continuous improvement mentality, wastes should be identified for reduction through a documented and monitored part number introduction process.  Some of the more common waste elements are:

Transport: In a new part number introduction process (NPIP), transport is the movement of documentation (electronic or paper) from one department to another requiring successive reviews and sign-offs. Excess transport is a symptom of a departmentalized approach to part number start-up rather than a process flow approach.

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Editor's Note: This article originally appeared in the March 2016 issue of The PCB Magazine.

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