Lean manufacturing

Lean manufacturing

Why use lean manufacturing? Simply, lean manufacturing is a great competitive weapon that reduces your costs, improves quality and improves your bottom line. If you are competing against off shore competition, you need lean manufacturing!

Lean production is aimed at the elimination of waste in every area of production including customer relations, product design, supplier networks and factory management. Its goal is to incorporate less human effort, less inventory, less time to develop products, and less space to become highly responsive to customer demand while producing top quality products in the most efficient and economical manner possible.

Lean excellence is a coordinated response to today's highly competitive environment. Its roots lie in manufacturing and are strongly influenced by the production system principles originally developed at Toyota.

What kind of results should you expect from a lean manufacturing implementation?

* Defects reduced by 20%.
* Delivery Lead Times reduced by more than 75%
* On Time Delivery improved to 99+%
* Productivity (sales per employee) increases of 15-35% per year
* Inventory (Working capital) reductions of more than 75%
* Return on Assets improvement of 100+%

What is involved in implementing lean manufacturing? First, and most important, top management commitment. This must be a key company objective. It takes a lot of hard work and doesn't happen overnight. It involves a real cultural change in the organization.

Lean makes use of many tools and techniques. Every operation is different and no two companies put these improvements in place the same way and use the same tools and techniques the same way. Discrete manufacturers, process manufacturing and job shops can all benefit greatly. Read about the tools and techniques and then call Doug Williams and Associates for an analysis on how we can help your business.
Lean is about doing more with less:

* Less time, inventory, space, people, & money.
* Lean is about speed and getting it right the first time.
* Lean is about eliminating waste.

Lean manufacturing or lean production, which is often known simply as "Lean", is a production practice that considers the expenditure of resources for any goal other than the creation of value for the end customer to be wasteful, and thus a target for elimination. In a more basic term, More value with less work. Lean manufacturing is a generic process management philosophy derived mostly from the Toyota Production System (TPS) (hence the term Toyotism is also prevalent) and identified as "Lean" only in the 1990s. It is renowned for its focus on reduction of the original Toyota seven wastes in order to improve overall customer value, but there are varying perspectives on how this is best achieved. The steady growth of Toyota, from a small company to the world's largest automaker,has focused attention on how it has achieved this.

Lean manufacturing is a variation on the theme of efficiency; it is a present-day instance of the larger recurring theme in human life of increasing efficiency, decreasing waste, and using empirical methods to decide what matters, rather than uncritically accepting pre-existing ideas of what matters. Thus it is a chapter in the larger narrative that also includes, for example, the folk wisdom of thrift, time and motion study, Taylorism, the Efficiency Movement, and Fordism. Lean manufacturing is often seen, with the benefit of hindsight, as a progression from, or a better attempt at the same goal of, earlier efficiency efforts—that is, picking up where earlier leaders like Taylor or Ford left off, and learning from their mistakes.


Lean principles come from the Japanese manufacturing industry. The term was first coined by John Krafcik in a Fall 1988 article, "Triumph of the Lean Production System," published in the Sloan Management Review and based on his master's thesis at the MIT Sloan School of Management. Krafcik had been a quality engineer in the Toyota-GM NUMMI joint venture in California before coming to MIT for MBA studies. Krafcik's research was continued by the International Motor Vehicle Program at MIT, which produced the international best-seller book co-authored by James Womack,Daniel Jones, and Daniel Roos called ‘The Machine That Changed the World’ (1990).

For many, Lean is the set of "tools" that assist in the identification and steady elimination of waste (muda). As waste is eliminated quality improves while production time and cost are reduced. Examples of such "tools" are Value Stream Mapping, Five S, Kanban (pull systems), and poka-yoke (error-proofing).

There is a second approach to Lean Manufacturing, which is promoted by Toyota, in which the focus is upon improving the "flow" or smoothness of work, thereby steadily eliminating mura ("unevenness") through the system and not upon 'waste reduction' per se. Techniques to improve flow include production leveling, "pull" production (by means of kanban) and the Heijunka box. This is a fundamentally different approach to most improvement methodologies which may partially account for its lack of popularity.

The difference between these two approaches is not the goal but the prime approach to achieving it. The implementation of smooth flow exposes quality problems which already existed and thus waste reduction naturally happens as a consequence. The advantage claimed for this approach is that it naturally takes a system-wide perspective whereas a waste focus has this perspective, sometimes wrongly, assumed. Some Toyota staff have expressed some surprise at the tool-based approach as they see the tools as work-arounds made necessary where flow could not be fully implemented and not as aims in themselves.

Lean manufacturing works on a simple principle. In one word it is based on seeing the bigger picture. At least organization must move away from departmentalized thinking and must move towards seeing the organization as one entity.

We shall go little in to details of this concept. What is the benefit of seeing the organization as one entity? Why we should do this. I will give you the answer. From the customer point of view, you are not separate set of departments. You are a single organization. So it doesn’t matter how well your each department works. What does matter tough is how well you perform as an organization.

If we take a look from an internal point of view, at the end of the day it only matters how well your entire organization has performed. For an example, even though your design department is superb, it will mean nothing if your manufacturing department is not doing well. This is why lean manufacturing treats sub optimization as an enemy.

Many manufacturers realized the importance of lean manufacturing principle of looking into the bigger picture as even more important in today’s world. Lean manufacturers are going out from their original manufacturing premises. Lean manufacturing is becoming lean enterprise by treating its customers and suppliers as partners. This gives the extra edge in today’s cost and time competitive markets. This will make the organization strong in all three conventional competition points. They are Price, Quality and the Delivery. Lean enterprise owners now can deliver high quality products quickly, with low price.

But in today’s world there are few more competition points. Social responsibility and the environmental friendliness are among them. These aspects are now not external from the organization. Many lean enterprise owners use the principle of lean manufacturing to accommodate these into their systems.