Lean Manufacturing

Lean manufacturing is a modern approach to manufacturing that eliminates process and resource inefficiencies. Becoming lean has grown into an integral part of modern manufacturing systems and procedures.

Only by eliminating waste and continuously improving processes can businesses increase their efficiency and deliver optimized value to their customers. Learn more about lean manufacturing, how it works, and its benefits here.

What Is Lean Manufacturing? 

Lean manufacturing is a process that is designed to minimize waste and maximize efficiency. In a lean manufacturing system, every process and activity is scrutinized to see if it adds value or creates waste. It is eliminated or redesigned if it is found to be creating waste.

How Does Lean Manufacturing Work?

Every business is different and there’s no one-size-fits-all approach when it comes to implementing the lean methodology. Though every organization needs its own lean plan to identify and eliminate waste, these are the five core principles of lean manufacturing that everyone should follow:

Five principles of lean manufacturing

1. Identify value: First, identify what is valuable for customers and what they’re willing to pay for each value-add.

2. Map the value stream: This involves analyzing everything from raw material to the final product and removing unnecessary waste.

3. Create flow: Reduce the production lead time by ensuring that pared-down steps flow without bottlenecks.

4. Implement a pull system: Rather than piling stock beforehand and increasing waste, establish a “just-in-time” pull system to deliver products or services when there’s demand.

5. Seek continuous improvement: Continuously assess all steps and improve processes to eliminate waste and maximize gains over time.

What Is Waste?

Waste is any unnecessary action that doesn’t add value to the manufacturing process or benefit customers. Toyota listed seven wastes or “Muda” as follows:

Seven types of waste

1. Overproduction

2. Excess inventory or stock

3. Overprocessing

4. Waiting (idle equipment or staff)

5. Unnecessary transportation

6. Unnecessary movement of people or equipment

7. Defects (product or service failure)

Pros of Lean Manufacturing

Lean manufacturing simplifies and streamlines a variety of manufacturing processes. These are some of the top pros that come from using a lean manufacturing methodology:

  • Fewer production defects
  • Enhanced productivity
  • Better inventory management
  • Improved worker efficiency
  • Maximized profits
  • Reduced production time
  • Cost savings
  • Environmental protection
  • Satisfied customers.

Cons of Lean Manufacturing

The main downside to implementing lean manufacturing is that there’s very little room for error. A product or labor failure can disrupt the whole production cycle. This can lead to missed deliveries or shipment delays, which may cause manufacturers to lose valuable customers.

Types of Lean Manufacturing Tools and Methods

To successfully implement lean and minimize waste, there are numerous tools and methods available. Some of them are listed below:

  • 5S (Sort, Straighten, Shine, Standardize, Sustain): Used to organize the workplace
  • PDCA (Plan, Do, Check, Act): Includes solutions testing and continual process improvement
  • SMED (Single-Minute Exchange of Die): Drastically reduces changeover time
  • Kanban: A visualization technique to improve workflow
  • Kaizen: Used for continuous improvement
  • Poka-yoke: Used for error-proofing
  • Jidoka: “Autonomation” to prevent the production of defective products
  • Value Stream Mapping (VSM): A flowchart that visually documents the manufacturing workflow
  • Total Productive Maintenance (TPM): An emphasis on precursory and preventative maintenance for manufacturing equipment

Looking for other tools to improve your manufacturing workflow? Check out the Best Manufacturing Resource Planning (MRP) Software here.

Maheen Kanwal
Maheen Kanwal
Maheen Kanwal is a technology & business content writer and copywriter. She's passionate about breaking down complex technical ideas into engaging content. As a freelancer, she has written hundreds of well-researched articles and blogs over the years for well-reputed platforms like TechnologyAdvice, Small Business Computing, Techjuice, Goodman Lantern, and others in various niches such as technology (SaaS, IT, Cybersecurity), business, HR, marketing, and finance.
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