Lean Manufacturing Principles Explained

As a business leader, you’ve likely heard of lean manufacturing techniques and how they help companies streamline their processes, reduce waste, cut costs and enhance productivity.

Many lean manufacturing strategies could help your company save money and time, but the best part about the principles is that they can be adapted to the workflow and office culture of your business so you can experience greater efficiencies and boost the quality of your work, says Forbes

Lean manufacturing is certainly nothing new, but it’s still a relevant, critical philosophy for manufacturers of all kinds who are looking to grow and effectively contend in a competitive, global environment. It gives you the lean manufacturing tools you need in order to pinpoint and get rid of waste within your operation. Now, that waste comes in many different forms, and it may not be obvious right off. 

It can encompass physical waste (think: packaging and components) or metaphysical waste (think: time and energy expended by staff). But no matter what shape that waste is, it takes a negative toll on your efficiency, output and bottom line.

When you implement lean manufacturing, you focus only on the things that add real value to your company. In turn, you are able to successfully reach your business goals. 


Leading by Example: Toyota

You really can’t talk about lean manufacturing without referencing the Toyota Production System (TPS), which holds the “complete elimination of all waste” mantra near and dear, using it as a way to pursue only the most efficient methods possible.

TPS stems from two concepts: 

  1. “Jidoka”: Loosely translated as “automation with a human touch”, this is the belief that when problems crop up, and they will, all equipment stops immediately to ensure no defective products make it off the line. 
  2. “Just-in-Time”, where any given process produces only what is needed by the next logical step, to result in a continuous flow of productivity.

Toyota has applied these concepts to manufacture high-quality vehicles consistently and reliably. This isn’t hard to believe given that Toyota is one of the world’s largest car manufacturers.

Different Types of Waste

There are seven different types of waste, coined by late chief engineer at Toyota, Taiichi Ohno:

  1. Transport – moving products unnecessarily
  2. Inventory – making and storing unwanted components
  3. Motion – unnecessary movement of equipment or people
  4. Waiting – too much downtime
  5. Overproduction – manufacturing more product than what is actually required
  6. Over processing – using complex tools where simpler ones would suffice
  7. Defects – too much time spent resolving preventable issues

These seven sources of waste are all non-value adding. Determining where you can make improvements allows you to decrease the amount of waste your organization generates. Many tools enable this, including 5S.

Where Does 5S Fit In?

5S got its origin from TPS. In fact, it is a basic part of the Toyota Production System because, until your work place is in a clean, organized state, it’s difficult to achieve consistently good results. Lean manufacturing utilizes many tools, such as 5S, kaizen, and the afore-mentioned jidoka. They all come together to ensure there are no messy, cluttered spaces that can lead to mistakes, accidents and slowdowns in production. All of these occurrences can disrupt operations and negatively impact the business.

In a nutshell, 5S is a system for organizing spaces so work can be performed safely, effectively and efficiently. It focuses on putting everything where it belongs and keeping a clean workplace so people can do their jobs without risking injury or wasting time. The term 5S comes from five Japanese words that are translated in English to: 

  • Sort
  • Set in Order
  • Shine
  • Standardize
  • Sustain

The Role Culture Plays

The best system in the world won’t work unless and until you have the support and understanding of everyone on your staff. Don’t spend so much time on what makes up a lean production system, as it’s not the tools that will save you per se — it’s the management style and the culture. 

There are vast resources out there to help you become a lean organization, but you won’t get far without engaging with this philosophy on a human level. Thus, it’s critical to understand lean manufacturing as a holistic way of thinking and working that must be a part of every element of your manufacturing process. 

Lean manufacturing reduces waste within a manufacturing operation, allowing you to be more productivity, better serve customer needs, and of course grow your organization so you can compete in today’s environment. 

Contact Incito Consulting Group

To learn more about our lean manufacturing principles and how we can help you, please contact us at 866-697-LEAN or send us a message online. 

You may be interested in our 5S Workplace Organization and Visual Management Workshop which focuses on how to:

  • Conduct high-level 5S Workplace Organizations assessments
  • Design and deploy a “TRUE” Red Tag Process and Holding Area 
  • Facilitate the change and cleanup process through the use of 5S
  • Teach the importance of Visual Management as it relates to lean principles for optimal sustainability 
  • Develop Visual Control and Visual Management Center standards 
  • Determine simple key performance indicators and agreed-upon metrics 
  • Develop and post 5S Workplace Organization Audit Program 
  • Follow up on 5S Workplace Organization Open Item List for 100 percent completion rate

Want to learn more? Schedule a consultation.

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