IIoT and Lean Manufacturing

Mae Kowalke, a reporter for Ziff Davis, recently sent in an inquiry asking how the Internet of Things (IoT) could improve Lean Manufacturing goals – a very interesting topic.  Here is how her questions were answered (your comments are welcomed).

1. What are four ways that the Internet of Things can improve lean manufacturing?
A fundamental process for a Lean program is value stream mapping (VSM). Often, use of an appropriate technology provides a means to make the value stream more efficient. Applying the industrial internet of things (IIoT) enables new means for removing waste. For example, IIoT can be applied to equipment for condition monitoring and predictive maintenance. Maintenance is performed when needed rather than on a fixed time period which can reduce maintenance costs by 50%. When examined through the lens of VSM, IIoT enables new areas of continuous improvement with innumerable ways to improve.
2. How does the supplier relationship need to change for IoT use with lean?
The relationship should gain additional interdependence. In the maintenance example, the design of equipment continues to grow in complexity making it more difficult for a general purpose, on-site technician to maintain (particularly with an aging workforce and retirements). The OEM thoroughly understands the equipment they make. With IIoT, condition monitoring can be done through the internet by the OEM. Alerts and guidance from the OEM will provide more effective repairs for improved uptime and asset longevity – which are highly ranked KPIs for asset management and maintenance.
3. What are the adjustments that manufacturers need to make for efficient IoT use with lean?
Probably a lot over time, but where to start? Educate the Lean blackbelts on IIoT so they can advise those involved in VSM kaizen projects when to consider IIoT.


  1. Lean operations is not just about fast material flow with low inventory, it is also about effective and timely information flow. Effective and immediate information is where IIOT can aid a Lean Program. Improving the immediacy of information on machines, production, material, and quality can replace cumbersome systems currently in place, improve timeliness of decision making and supply continuous improvement teams with thorough and accurate information about the process.

  2. Ernest,
    Thank you for your comment. Like the expansion of a Lean program beyond material and labor to include removing waste in data acquisition and information flow. An interesting topic would be to revisit the “7 types of waste” and apply them to information management. I seem to recall reading an article on Lean and IT several years ago.
    Ralph Rio