Lean manufacturing at hand

Lean manufacturing in your hand

Lean manufacturing, described as a systematic method for the elimination of waste within a manufacturing system, has risen in prominence as manufacturing industries aim to reduce their environmental impact while increasing their profit margins.

Everything, down to the smallest item, can be manufactured this way. Pens, for instance … millions of them are produced each year – a perfect opportunity to employ lean manufacturing. This is just what one Australian consultant has set out to do.

The “if…pen”, according to designer David Colliver, will be the embodiment of lean manufacturing.

Colliver, an industrial designer and lean-management consultant in Adelaide, South Australia, says his ballpoint pen isn’t just a sleek writing instrument but also an example of how lean production and management philosophies contribute to manufacturing.

“So many efficiencies can be dealt with in the design phase,” says Colliver, who has 25 years of experience in helping manufacturers improve their processes. Having begun designing the “if…pen” five years ago, Colliver says he wants to “shed light on what is possible in lean”.

The ultramodern design is in itself minimalistic, with a one-piece, injection-moulded titanium barrel and a squeeze action “that retracts the integrated cap protecting the writing tip from damage or drying out” and a clip that can’t be bent or broken.

Three of the five parts suppliers are local South Australian companies; only the German ink cartridge and rubber grip are imported.

“Keeping it local is an advantage,” says Colliver. “You can go to China for tooling and save 20 percent, but then it comes back and doesn’t work and is fixed locally – and you land up paying 50 percent more.”

He says staying lean and local also means a company can control supply chains and stock much more easily, not having to put in large orders of 50 000 units, for example.

Colliver says South Australia, which is transitioning from an automobile manufacturing base to advanced manufacturing, offers all the services and expertise he needs to produce his precision pen, from tooling and plastic injection moulding to packaging and shipping.

A Kickstarter crowdfunding campaign has been launched, offering one pen for AUD89 (R971). Colliver says he hopes to attract pen enthusiasts, or manufacturing and production experts, who want to literally hold lean in their hands.

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