What is Lean Manufacturing?

Lean is business model often used in manufacturing industries that works to identify


and eliminate waste while still creating value for customers. Lean encompasses a variety of things and Lean manufacturing terms, tools, and practices are mainly derived from the Toyota Production System and was first coined in the 1980s by John Krafcik.

The toolbox of Lean

Organizations practicing Lean has a toolbox chock full of helpful tools when it comes to finding waste and getting rid of it. Below are some of what can be found in in the Lean set of tools:

  • 5S: 5S is a systematic organizational strategy that utilizes visual management. The framework of 5S and each included step was developed to search and remove waste in the workplace.
  • Kanban: Kanban is a visual pull system where a production process is triggered by demand. This tool works to prevent over processing, over producing, and excess inventory.
  • Value Stream Mapping: A value stream map is a tool used in Lean to assess the current state of processes from start of production to the end. It will show information flow and allow managers to easily identify areas of waste and areas of improvement.

And that’s just to name a few! These tools work to improve quality and reduce production time and cost by eliminating waste.

There are eight wastes that commonly arise in manufacturing that Lean aims to address. These wastes include transport, inventory, motion, waiting, overproduction, over processing, talent, and defects. By working to improve processes and reduce waste through Lean, organizations can improve efficiency and ultimately affect the bottom line.

The principles at the core of Lean manufacturing can also be found in the Toyota Way. These principles provide guidance for Lean efforts and an emphasis that the goal of Lean was not to simply reduce and eliminate wastes. Core Lean principles and concepts include:

  • Continuous Improvement: Known as Kaizen in the Toyota Production System, the idea of continuous improvement is to make small incremental changes over time and always look for these smaller improvements.
  • Just-in-Time (JIT) Production: Using JIT production utilizes a pull system instead of the traditional push system which relies on historical data and demand forecasting to plan production. Instead, processes are not initiated until customer demand.
  • Levelized Production: Levelized production is an important principle in the Toyota Production System and works to eliminate unevenness in the system. By having an even system, the facility can easily switch to manufacturing a new product or stopping without having excess inventory.

Lean manufacturing makes for a more efficient and productive workplace, no matter the industry. Companies implementing Lean will end up saving a great deal of time, money, and other resources. It may take some effort and time to apply the Lean strategies to your specific facility, but the competitive advantage it will bring to your company will be well worth it.

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