The age of manufacturing’s status quo has long since ended. A weakening labor pool (and increasingly more difficult bar of entry set the stage for that end) and 2020 look like the final nails in that coffin. Now the buzzwords like resiliency, visibility, and smart all describe one core principle of efficient manufacturing: flexibility. And one of those forms of flexible manufacturing is called yatai

What is The Yatai Flexible Manufacturing System?

Yatai is the Japanese word for food cart; literally, “shop stand”. These wheeled food stalls can be found in a couple of prefectures in Japan, with vendors serving patrons a variety of traditional Japanese dishes like gyoza, tempura, and ﹘ of course ﹘ ramen. In manufacturing, the “yatai flexible manufacturing system” is an adaptation of various Lean Manufacturing and On Demand Manufacturing methodologies in which a cart plays a central role. 

How Does it Work?

Mahajak Air Conditioners (MACO), which is a part of the Mitsubishi Heavy Industry (MHI) Group, uses the yatai flexible manufacturing system in order to create air conditioning units on the fly. Each employee is assigned a workstation composed of a portable, wheelable cart which has access to all the tools they will need to create a product at any given stage of the manufacturing process. Besides the tools, each cart has space for the product to be worked on, and sometimes even a portable computer to aid in software applications and more. A tracking system using calendars manages which workstations are being used to create which products.

What are the Benefits?

Multi-Function Workstations

With workstations that have all the tools necessary to run a number of different operations, workers are able to quickly pivot to new operations as soon as they become needed.

Example: A business normally produces 3D printable assets. It decides, as a good corporate citizen, to aid in the COVID-19 pandemic response by creating personal protective equipment (PPE) for healthcare providers. Using the yatai flexible manufacturing system, the carts at each workstation can quickly be wheeled to a supply cabinet and outfitted with any necessary tools to create both products. Once that is done, a calendar is updated in tracking the carts as well as which products are being worked on at what workstation.  

Easier Customization of Products

The yatai flexible manufacturing system can be incredibly useful for businesses that create products that often need to be modified or customized to meet individual customer needs. Custom computers are a good example. With all of the tools needed to open up a PC and modify it available on the cart itself, workers can get busy modifying standard units wherever, whenever, and with whatever is necessary.

What Will You Need?

Portable Industrial Computers

While the methodology of the yatai flexible manufacturing system is sound, the equipment on the carts may not be. Businesses adopting Mitsubishi’s manufacturing method should make sure any computers and devices they house are up to snuff. Rugged industrial computers are incredibly compact and can be outfitted onto a cart to take minimal real estate. Even better, these computers can be equipped with all manner of peripherals such as RFID scanners.

For extremely space-conscious needs, industrial tablets with RFID scanning can also be deployed. Such an unbeatable combo can be used to scan inventory in and out from the same workstation, which translates to more reactive supply coverage and response to demand.

Communication Systems

Calendars play an important role in the yatai flexible manufacturing system as they are used to track which workstations are being used for which purpose. There is no reason, though, they can’t be swapped out for more sophisticated solutions such as manufacturing metric displays. Posted up on highly viewable points on the factory floor, these smart monitors can be updated in real-time as the workstations are swapped around and used for different purposes. 

Become Flexible With Where You Take Inspiration for Your Flexible Manufacturing System

Mitsubishi has shown manufacturers that inspiration can often be drawn from the most unique places. Learning to adapt, incorporating lessons learned from other industries, and being flexible, may make the difference between whether or not which businesses will see success ﹘ and failure ﹘ in 2021 and beyond. 

Contact an expert from Cybernet today to learn how computers and hardware can help your business be flexible in the coming years.