Lean Manufacturing is a production methodology used by manufacturers to eliminate waste, optimize value for the customer, and boost company productivity. By focusing on factors that add value and cutting activities that cause waste, companies can create more value while pursuing greater operational efficiency.
Essentially, Lean Manufacturing is a win-win scenario. If the core principles are followed carefully, lean manufacturing is beneficial to the organization and market consumers as costs are lowered and value is increased.
Lean manufacturing is the process of reducing wasteful activities while increasing value to the product or service.
The most valuable factors of production are those that bring value to the customer.
The fundamental principles behind lean manufacturing were inspired by the Toyota Production System (TPS).
Lean Manufacturing is about finding the right balance. Remove waste as much as possible but don’t hurt the production by going beyond lean.
Lean Manufacturing was first developed by the Toyota Production System (TPS) between the years 1948-1975. Since then, Lean has gained worldwide notoriety as an incredibly efficient production model that companies aspire to emulate. Taiichi Ohno and Eiji Toyoda, Toyota industrial engineers, primarily created the system as a way to mitigate wasteful inventories in the automotive industry but it has grown to encompass other methods and practices of mitigating waste and adding value across many industries.
Examples of production methods inspired by Lean are Kanban, Kaizen, Lean Six Sigma, DMAIC (Define, Measure, Analyze, Improve and Control), and DMADV (Define, Measure, Analyze, Design, Verify). Each helps to further define and enhance Lean methodology in a manufacturing environment.
To get a clear understanding of Lean Manufacturing, we need to understand value from the perspective of the customer. If a business is not providing value for the customer, then there is no business. In this way, value is a top priority within Lean Manufacturing methodology.
Value within a production line is broken up into three types of activities:
Within Lean Manufacturing, value is always considered through the perspective of the consumer. It is the consumers who decide what brings value to a product. Businesses have to adapt their product and their operation to meet that goal. Anything that does not directly or indirectly add value for the consumer is considered waste and should be removed.
Lean Manufacturing is characterized by the 5 following principles.
To get an accurate understanding of what “lean” is in a manufacturing setting, we need to have a clear understanding of waste and how it occurs. According to the Toyota Production System (TPS), waste can be split into three separate categories.
Understanding and cutting out waste is about balance. Companies engaging in lean methodologies should eliminate waste but not so severely that they hurt the operation.
The end goal is not to cut waste, it is to add value. Past attempts at reproducing the success of lean manufacturing often missed this core concept and focused solely on waste. This unbalanced approach and hyper-focus on waste led many companies to cut corners, cut people, and eventually cut value. Companies must look at cutting waste with a balanced approach. Otherwise, they’re not lean, they’re starving!
A more in-depth and balanced approach to understanding waste is through the “8 Wastes of Lean”. These can be remembered using the appropriate acronym DOWNTIME.