Lean versus Agile Production

Agile compared to Lean
Agile compared to Lean

It was in 1989, that for the first time the world was introduced to the term ‘lean production’ as it was coined in by MIT. On the other hand, Agile Manufacturing can trace its origins in a research study by Lehigh University in the early 90s.

Before discussing lean and agile, it’s important to place lean manufacturing in context with the traditional mass production principles. Lean manufacturing does away with many of the manufacturing principles, and guidelines of mass production. A brief comparison is tabled below:

Mass production

Lean Production

Inventory Buffers Minimum Inventory
Just in Case deliveries Just in time deliveries
Acceptable Quality Level Perfect first time Quality
Taylorism Worker Teams and Worker Involvement
Maximum efficiency Flexible production systems
If ain’t broke, don’t fix it Continuous improvement
Minimum waste

Adapted from Mikell P. Groover’s Automation, Production Systems, and Computer Integrated Manufacturing, 2nd Edition

Component of Agile Manufacturing
Component of Agile Manufacturing

Although, tabled nearly at the same time as Lean Manufacturing, it is indeed Agile manufacturing which is far more relevant to the North American manufacturers at the enterprise level, than the former. Reason is simple enough; today many North American manufacturers are primarily focused on producing customized solutions as per client specs and in small to medium sized batches. Today quantities as little as 500 to 1000 pieces of practically any product can be outsourced to offshore vendors with considerable cost advantage.

It is important to remember that lean allows for waste free, efficient system that adds to the bottom line and in turn give competitive pricing advantage. However, most customers today come to local manufacturing facilities for their ability to quickly adapt to changes, better technical support, shorter time to market and most importantly, short production runs. Consequently, absolute focus on lean production may not be suitable for most local manufacturers and application of agile manufacturing principles on the enterprise level is important to maintain competitive against local and overseas competition.

Components of Lean Manufacturing
Components of Lean Manufacturing

Lean and agile principles complement each other, however, the scale at which they are applied are different. Lean principles are best applied at the factory or floor level where efficiency takes precedence of all except safety. On the other hand, agile principles are most suitable at the enterprise level where ability to adjust to changing internal and external factors is off utmost importance. The emphasis in lean is more on the technical and operational issues, while agile addresses the people and organizational issues.

However, where there is a significant difference is how change management is performed under each system. Lean tries to minimize change, whether internal or external in order to minimize waste and increase efficiency. Whereas, agile embraces change. The idea is to thrive at the ever changing environment and business landscape.

In fact, agile manufacturing should be seen as the natural extension and evolution of the lean principles.

Four Principles of Lean Production and Agile Manufacturing

Lean Production

Agile Production

Minimize Change Enrich the Customer
Perfect first-time quality Cooperate to enhance competitiveness
Flexible production lines Organize to master change
Continuous improvement Leverage the impact of people and information

Adapted from Mikell P. Groover’s Automation, Production Systems, and Computer Integrated Manufacturing, 2nd Edition

Comparison of Lean Production and Agile Manufacturing Attributes


Lean Production

Agile Production

Enhancement of Mass Production Break with mass production; emphasis on mass customization.
Flexible production for product variety Greater flexibility for customized products
Focus on factory operations Scope is enterprise wide
Emphasis on supplier management Formation Virtual enterprises
Emphasis on efficient use of resources Emphasis on thriving in environment marked by continuous unpredictable change
Relies on smooth production schedule Acknowledgement and attempts to be responsive to change.

Adapted from Mikell P. Groover’s Automation, Production Systems, and Computer Integrated Manufacturing, 2nd Edition



Stranded vs Solid Wire

Example of Solid Wire
Example of Solid Wire

In choosing the right type of wire for a project, there are a number of important considerations. Based on the amperage load and application, the electrician needs to determine the appropriate gauge of wire to use, as well as the type of metal wire to use. Beyond choosing between aluminum or copper, the wiring expert will understand the difference between stranded and solid wire and will choose the appropriate wire core to use for their chosen project. While solid wire consists of a single metal core, a stranded wire is composed of numerous thinner wires twisted together into a cohesive bunch. Both types of wire are appropriate for commercial and residential installation, however each has particular advantages and disadvantages that lead to the choice of one over another for each particular application.

Example of Stranded Wire
Example of Stranded Wire

While both types of wire will transmit electricity effectively, each is better suited to specific applications in both residential and commercial uses. Solid wire is the wire of choice for outdoor or rugged-duty applications which may expose the wire to corrosive elements, adverse weather condition or frequent movement. Stranded wire, conversely, serves a better purpose in intricate usages, such as electronic devices and circuit boards, where the wire will be protected but may undergo bending or twisting in order to connect electronic components.

The advantage of solid wire is one of cost, simplicity and durability. Because it is merely a single, thick strand of wire, the wire is very resistant to damage and extremely simple to make. However, for applications which require a great deal of movement — such as robotics or vehicular applications — or will require the wire to be bent into complex shapes — such as electronics and circuit boards — solid wire is undesirable because it lacks the strength and malleability to endure reshaping and motion. On the other hand, stranded wire is well-suited to applications which will demand flexibility and reshaping. For preventing electronic interference, however, stranded wire holds a disadvantage because the air channels between strands magnify the skin effect caused by magnetic fields on the surface of the wire.

In choosing based on cost, initial cost needs to be weighed against long-term durability. While a solid wire initially costs significantly less to purchase than stranded wire, a stranded wire will last longer in environments where motion or frequent alterations to the wiring may occur. All of these factors need to be taken into account before making a decision about the type of wire to choose for an application.

Stranded vs Solid_wire - Comparison
Stranded vs Solid_wire - Comparison

*Remember each situation is unique and this is generic information, always consult a professional before making any decision.

Five Connectivity technologies for 2010

A number of new technologies were introduced in 2009 for end user product connectivity, we pick our favorites for ones that are sure to generate some serious consumer interest in 2010.

1 – HDMI 1.4

Great breakthroughs have been made this year concerning HDMI technology for 2010.Cunsumers should be excited about all the new features regarding Internet connectivity, higher color definition, better sound and more options when it comes to devices the new HDMI 1.4 standard can support. Previous HDMI standards could only support 1080p video resolutions and a limited amount of audio formats. Added connectivity support includes:

  1. Ethernet channel support: This will enable users to utilize 100Mb/Second transfer rate without the need for additional network cabling.
  2. Audio upstream channel: This will allow a single cable connection for users who have devices that require post audio processing, eliminating the need for additional cables.
  3. 3D over HDMI: Enables typical 3d formats to be standardized while adding duel 1080p streams between capable devices.
  4. 4K x 2K Resolution Support: Probably one of the most exiting features of the new HDMI 1.4, this technology will allow for high definition screen resolutions up to 4 times that of previous HDMI standards. Up to 4096×2160 at 24Hz and 3840×2160 at 24Hz/25Hz/30Hz resolutions will be possible. Earlier HDMI capabilities only have a maximum resolution of 1920×1080.
  5. Expanded Support For Color Spaces: This addition will add crisper images and more defined color when connected to a capable digital camera.
  6. Micro HDMI Connector: Almost half the size of existing mini HDMI connectors, this 19 pin cable will enable connections for capable portable devices with high definition resolutions up to 1080p.
  7. Automotive Connection System: With the vehicle environment becoming more media oriented, this technology will bring high definition capabilities to cars and trucks. Many strides have been made in this area in terms of durability and reliability, as vehicles can experience harsher climates, increased vibration and noise interference.

2 – Display Port

Display port is one of the latest video, audio and data connection standards offered by VESA. The technology is open source and many other connectivity formats are supported, such as Ethernet and USB. Display Port is designed to replace older technologies such as DVI, LVDS and VGA connection types commonly associated with most of the personal computers used today. This new technology will enable consumers to do away with many older connection technologies, making it possible to use one Display Port connection cable to operate a multitude of devices. Some of the key features of Display Port are:

  1. Connecting external devices such as multiple monitors, webcams, USB peripherals, networking devices and audio components, all in one simple cable.
  2. Full HD 3D support: Over 240 frames per second are possible with Display Port 1.2 and up to 4 monitors at full 1080p. For a single monitor, this technology can support resolutions up to 3840 x 2400 at 60Hz.
  3. Support for High Definition audio formats such as Dolby MAT, DTS HD, Blu-Ray, and the DRA standard.

3 – Category 7 Networking Cables

Until now, network cabling technology has undergone very few changes. As with any copper wiring, electrical interference can cause problems with data transmissions over network cabling just the same. Users of these newer networking standards will allow the user to surf the Internet faster and more reliably as well as transfer files among connected computer systems at blazing speeds without any hiccups.

  1. Cat 7: This standard will simply allow for better resistance against such natural and manmade electrical interference to allow for a more stable and reliable connection between networked devices. An increase in data transfer rate is also possible, up to 10 Gigabits per second over a 100 meter span. Previous Cat 6a can achieve this speed; however, with the new standard this high speed connection will be more consistent.
  2. Cat 7a: Similar to Cat 7, the improvements planned for this standard have not been fully implemented. The noticeable differences will include an increase from 600 MHz to 1000 MHz in terms of frequencies that can be utilized for data transmission.

4 – USB 3.0

USB 2.0, while serving users well for over a decade, has shown its age and as the demand for higher data transfer rates have increased, so has a the need for improvement. An increase of speed at almost tenfold is expected with USB 3.0. The new standard should be available on many new computers and other compatible devices sometime in 2010. Not only will the consumer be able to transfer High definition videos and pictures up to 10 times faster than USB 2.0, users will see a dramatic decrease in power consumption among smaller USB 3.0 enabled devices.

  1. USB 3.0 will allow for simultaneous bidirectional data transfers. With the older USB 2.0 specification, it was only possible to read or write information one direction at a time.
  2. Major data protocol changes have been made with USB 3.0. Earlier USB host controllers would constantly check a connected device for an incoming signal. This newer standard changes that by allowing the connected device to instead send a signal to the host device when it is ready to communicate, thereby freeing up resources and saving energy in the process.
  3. USB 3.0 is backwards compatible with preceding technologies, giving the new standard more flexibility.

5 – Wireless HDMI

Wireless technology has become the new data exchange frontier for the new millennium. HDMI is the gold standard when it comes to transmitting and receiving high definition video and audio. Wireless HDMI will allow consumers to transmit 1080p video and HD audio formats without the need for obtrusive cables. Many television and other various multimedia product manufacturers have implemented this new technology with their latest offerings. Although this new wireless standard is fairly new and expensive, it is believed that wireless HDMI will become common place in the near future.

The current downside to wireless HDMI is the limited range of the technology. Range limits have put into place because of the extraordinary frequency range used to transfer the amount of data required for the transmission of high definition data. Stronger signals produced by wireless HDMI devices could possibly interfere with other wireless components in or around the home. Current consumers who have jumped early on the bandwagon have complained about the component noise produced from cooling fans used in certain wireless HDMI devices that are available on the market today.
We hope you enjoyed the read, and wish you a very happy new year.

Electromagnetic Fields and Public Safety

The controversy is ongoing as to whether electric or magnetic fields have a harmful effect on people living near them. A look at the most recent studies, covering electromagnetic wave emissions and their effect on living cells seem to be inconclusive at worst and show no effect at best.

High-voltage power transmission towers, Power Lines Stock Photo

A recent study by the National Academy of Sciences/National Research Council Report: Possible Health Effects Of Exposure To Residential Electric And Magnetic Fields, in regard to people living near high-power lines found no higher risk for cancer or other health effects than in a normal population living away from such lines. A similar university study found that pastures and fields where a power line crosses had no measurable impact on the animals living in the area.

All electronic equipment produces some form of electrical or magnetic field. Even wire harnesses and custom cable installations put out an electrical field. Everyone is exposed at some point during the day to one of these fields which are present wherever we run power cables and use electronic devices. They are so ubiquitous in our environment we generally never notice them around us.

Starting in the 70’s a vocal group of people started complaining about high power transmission lines being built near their homes. People used anecdotal evidence to try and blame the electric field generated by the power lines for increased risk of cancer, and other medical problems. The power companies naturally were concerned, and sponsored studies and tests to try and prove whether the fields were safe or not.

One of the main illnesses that electromagnetic waves have been accused of causing is childhood leukemia. However there have been two studies, one by the National Academy of Sciences, and the other by the National Cancer Institute which found no correlation between exposure to high electromagnetic fields and the disease. The World Health Organization has issued a fact sheet that states there is no substantiated evidence to link the disease with ELF and EMF radiation.

These studies, done by leading research institutes and universities have so far shown no correlation between electric fields and human illness. Most of the cases that were used as proof were found to fall within the normal statistical variation for the general population for getting the illness.
This is not to say that all electromagnetic radiation is safe. At higher wavelengths these harmless waves can become harmful radiation such as x-rays and gamma waves. It is however, impossible for power lines to generate this type of radiation.

There are still those who worry, and who use anecdotal evidence to make a straw man out of power lines. The science however, does not support them. After the NCI studies were done the US government shut down a US department of Energy group looking into providing information and study into EMF stating that it’s services were no longer needed.

EMF is always going to be controversial, with one side clinging to their anecdotal evidence despite studies that prove otherwise. But it would appear that the verdict is in as far as the dangers of electrical and magnetic fields and that verdict is they are safe to be around.

Customcable.ca Launched to better serve Custom Cable Clients

After the success of cable5.ca and increase number of custom cable clients, MSASH Inc has launched its all new and improved website dedicated to custom cable assemblies.

The new website is to feature a number of direct RFQ order forms for D Sub Cables, Fiber optic cables, Networking Cables, Cisco Cables, coaxial cables and many more. The website will ultimately build a large knowledge base of Cable and Wire related topics, glossary terms and tools.

The new website also showcases some of the work MSASH Inc has performed for our customers over the years in the gallery section.