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Holding lean manufacturing in your hand

04 July 2016

A crowdfunding campaign has been launched to develop a pen that its designer says will be the embodiment of lean manufacturing.

Image courtesy of The Lead

David Colliver, an industrial designer and lean management consultant in Adelaide, South Australia, has designed a ballpoint pen that he says isn’t just a sleek writing instrument but is 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 Collier, who has 25 years experience in helping manufacturers improve their processes.

Colliver, who began designing his “if…pen” five years ago, says he wants to “shed light on what is possible in lean”.

The ultramodern pen 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.

Keeping the working parts to a minimum and working with local suppliers will help Colliver quickly fulfil orders and maintain quality if his Kickstarter campaign is a success.

Colliver says three of his five suppliers are local South Australian companies, and he has only had to import the German ink cartridges and the rubber grip.

“Keeping it local is an advantage,” says Colliver, who is drawing on his experience at South Australian refrigeration and air conditioning manufacturer Seeley International to design his lean pen.

“You can go to China for tooling and save 20 percent but then it comes back and it doesn’t work and is fixed here and you are paying 50 percent more.”

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

He is using the injection moulding tooling expertise from Precise Machining & Manufacturing as well as Nylastex Tooling, which worked on another recent South Australian invention, the HEGS pegs.

For plastic injection moulding he turned to Garry Thompson at Garon Plastics and Matt Munoz from Advanced Material Solutions for the titanium metal injection moulding.

Packaging and packing and shipping are also local, through Open Book Howden and Express Fulfillment.

The Kickstarter campaign is offering one pen for AUD $89 and 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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