Lean Manufacturing


The word Lean comes from the ability to achieve more with less resource, by continuous elimination of waste. The lean manufacturing process is a comprehensive way to reduce waste of all types. It could be a waste of time or material, it is still waste.

Originally a Japanese methodology known as the Toyota Production System designed by Sakichi Toyoda, lean manufacturing centers around placing small stockpiles of inventory in strategic locations around the assembly line, instead of in centralized warehouses. These small stockpiles are known as kanban, and the use of the kanban significantly lowers waste and enhances productivity on the factory floor.

Lean manufacturing is a manufacturing strategy that seeks to produce a high level of throughput with a minimum of inventory e.g. suppliers deliver small lots on a daily basis, and machines are not necessarily run at full capacity. One of the primary focuses of lean manufacturing is to eliminate waste; that is, anything that does not add value to the final product gets eliminated. A second major focus is to empower workers, and make production decisions at the lowest level possible.

In addition to eliminating waste, lean manufacturing seeks to provide optimum quality by building in a method whereby each part is examined immediately after manufacture, and if there is a defect, the production line stops so that the problem can be detected at the earliest possible time.

The lean manufacturing method has much in common with the Total Quality Management (TQM), Total production Maintenance (TPM) and Toyata production system strategy.

What Lean Looks

  • Value : What the customer is willing to pay for ( The process which transform the product )
  • Value Stream : The sequence of process to deliver value to the customer
  • Flow : Movement between value adding process without delay or interruption
  • Pull : Activating a process when the customer wants to receive, not when the supplier wants to provide.

Lean Manufacturing / Lean Production Beliefs

  • People: A core belief in lean is that people are an organizations’ most important asset. When engaged and leveraged properly, your people are your competitive advantage. More specifically, the way in which you value those people are your competitive advantage. Keeping them safe and providing excellent working conditions help show this value.
  • Quality: Producing defect free product is critical to eliminate waste. A core belief in Lean is that a product should never be sent to the next step in the process if there is a defect. This means you will need robust systems in place to ensure this.
  • Delivery: Get the right products to the right place at the right time in the correct quantities. That sums up delivery in a Lean organization. One key difference in Lean is idea that inventory is waste. The days of hoarding inventory to make up for production shortfalls are over. Just in time delivery is a core component.
  • Cost: Waste increases cost. At the heart of lean production is the elimination of waste, in turn the elimination of cost. Make no mistake; eliminating or reducing costs is important in any organization.

What is waste and how can you eliminate it with lean manufacturing?

There are 8 wastes and understanding them and how to eliminate them is crucial to your success. Here is a short explanation of each type of waste and a tip for eliminating it.

  1. Waiting: Think broadly when trying to see waiting. Are your people standing around waiting to do something? Do you have equipment that is waiting on product? Is your distribution department waiting on production? These simple questions will help you start to see the waste of waiting. Tip: match work load to cycle time in order to reduce waiting.
  2. Transportation: The simplest example of this is unnecessary conveyance. Companies love to convey product, but keep an eye out for over using it. Tip: Place machines closer together or change to a cell layout to reduce transportation.
  3. Inventory: Any WIP above or finished product that is just being stored is considered waste. It’s a huge expense. Tip: Take the inventory out of your system and highlight the problems it was masking. Get to the root cause of those problems and fix them for good.
  4. Motion: A common example is an employee having to walk 20 feet to get a tool. This is wasted motion. Tip: Place the tool close to the employee and eliminate this waste.
  5. Overproduction: Producing more than is ordered, or producing it sooner than necessary. Tip: If you have inventory, you have over production.
  6. Over processing: Doing more to the product than the customer is willing to pay for. An example might be putting on 6 coats of paint when 3 will do. Tip: A lot to times over processing can “feel like the right thing to do” because you think the customer will appreciate it. But it will increase your cost, and it’s doubtful the customer will let you pass that cost onto them.
  7. Defects: This one pretty self explanatory. Look for rework piles and you’ll find the defects. Tip: Take all defects seriously and work to get to their root cause.
  8. Wasting Talent: Not utilizing the talent of your people. Think of your employees as partners and engage them in your business. They are full of great ideas; they’re just waiting to be asked. Tip: make sure before you start engaging them that you’re serious about getting their help. Nothing kills morale like getting everyone excited to help and then not acting on it.
If you quarter your Lead time, you will double productivity and reduce 20% of your Cost.

This is know as ¼ : 2 : 20 rule.

Typical results are as follows

  • Lead time reduce by 50 – 60 %
  • Reduce Manufacturing Cost by 20 – 30 %
  • Stock and inventory reduced by 30- 40 %
  • Reduction of Floor Space 30 -50%
  • Overall Equipment Effectiveness (OEE) increase by 20 – 40 %
  • Labour productivity increase by 20 – 25%
  • Reduce Set up time by 40%

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