What is Lean (LEAN) Manufacturing?
If you work in a manufacturing industry, you have probably heard of Lean. If you aren’t sure if Lean is right for you, you might be asking yourself what exactly it is and what the benefits are. The process of Lean manufacturing originated from the Toyota Production System – and in their case, they grew from a small company to one of the world’s largest automotive manufacturers, which is a testament to its success. The system has now been adopted by many other companies in Japan and gained popularity globally over the years. The general concept of Lean is a production system that minimizes waste (“muda” in Japanese) without sacrificing productivity.
So what exactly is waste? In this methodology, waste is considered anything that does not add value from the customers’ perspective. Waste is categorized into seven parts: transport, inventory, motion, waiting, over-processing, overproduction, and defects. All of these have a direct impact on your costs and don’t add value – so they create more costs for the customer in the end with nothing added to the product or service you provide.
Benefits of Lean
The overall goals of Lean are as follows – improving quality, eliminating waste, reducing time, and reducing total costs. All of these things are beneficial to any business, and there are many additional benefits to using Lean manufacturing. Through case studies and success stories of companies that have implemented the system, it has shown less defects, lower levels of inventory, improved delivery, greater customer satisfaction, better supplier relations, and more.
Implementing Lean is not a one size fits all process. There is not a simple road map you can follow, it involves an in-depth analysis of your company’s procedures, and developing an implementation plan that will transform it to a more efficient, productive system.
You can’t simply make the decision to reduce waste.
There are two main pillars of Lean, Just In Time (JIT) which primarily focuses on reducing flow times within production as well as response times to and from suppliers and customers; and Jidoka which highlights the cause of problems leading to improvement of quality and reduction of defects.
Additionally, the five principles of Lean are:
- To specify value as seen by the customer;
- Identify and create value streams;
- Make the value flow from raw material to the customer;
- Pull production not push;
- Strive for perfection.
Without knowledge and experience in Lean, it can be extremely difficult to figure out how to transform your manufacturing processes. And, of course, Lean can be applied to other industries and sectors, such as construction and field services and even in the public sector, to reduce costs and improve responsiveness and service quality.