Apply Lean Manufacturing Principles & Grow Your Production

What is Lean Manufacturing?

Wasted resources hurt your productivity. Simple… and pretty obvious sounding, isn’t it? This is the basis of lean manufacturing. Lean manufacturing focuses on using lean techniques, laid out below, to continuously improve your entire production from supplier to customer. The complexity comes from the variety of wastes in manufacturing and choosing the right solutions.   

But before we jump into the meat of lean manufacturing, let’s spend a moment dissecting the term itself. We look at lean manufacturing as a subset of lean ideology, instead of seeing it as its own field. For the sake of the article, we will use lean manufacturing. But the truth is lean manufacturing is no more than lean methodology applied to your manufacturing process. The same can be said for sales, customer service, and engineering processes. They are all integrated through the value stream, material flow, and data flow.  

As such, there are other things than just manufacturing to consider when improving manufacturing. Waste is everywhere waiting to be removed. Now we can get more in-depth on how to remove manufacturing waste with lean methodology.

What are the Key Principles of Lean Manufacturing?

All it takes is five steps, or principles, to optimize your manufacturing systems. Apply these lean manufacturing principles to simplify your operational structure and improve your productivity: 

  1. Value: Before you can start identifying and removing waste from your systems, you need to identify what your customer wants, or the value of your product. Defining the true value for your customer allows you to create a product with only what is necessary, avoiding unnecessary work and resources.  
  2. Value Stream Mapping: Map your value stream, from supplier to the customer. The focus will be on three aspects; the transformation process, the material flow, and the information flow.  This will help you visualize each step in your production and notice where there is waste and an opportunity to improve.  
  3. Create Flow: Lead times can often be laid out like a ladder, with long processing times and brief moments of wait time between. On all rungs of the ladder there is waste preventing flow. Improving steps in the value stream reduces these production lead times, improving processes and creating flow.  
  4. Pull System: A pull system makes products when there is demand – simply put, you sell it, you make it. Components in production are only replenished when there is demand for more from the customer.  
  5. Continuous Improvement: Constantly look to apply lean techniques in order to improve your processes and eliminate waste.

The term waste has come up a lot. Let’s better define what is considered waste in lean manufacturing.

What are the Types of Waste in Lean Manufacturing?

Any activity that does not add value to your customer, from the customer’s perspective, is waste. There are 8 wastes of lean manufacturing. To be the most effective, all types of waste must be identified and removed.

  • Excess Inventory: A lot of possible problems arise from having excess inventory. For instance, excess inventory requires more space on the production floor. It also makes identifying and addressing defects tougher.  
  • Unnecessary Motion: Unnecessary motion takes time away from value-adding work. Optimizing the motion of people, equipment, and machinery in your process saves time and energy.  
  • Waiting: This waste accounts for idle workers or equipment. When equipment is waiting for maintenance or people are waiting for equipment, this is waste. 
  • Overproduction: Overproduction leads to excess inventory and the associated problems. Just-in-time production is the solution.  
  • Over-processing: Over-processing occurs when you do not fully understand what the customer values. Components or features that are not needed by the customer are unnecessary.  
  • Defects: Defective products hurt customer satisfaction, increase costs, and should be avoided.  
  • Unnecessary Transportation: Unnecessary transportation or people, tools, material, or equipment can be avoided by optimizing plant layouts. You can read more about optimizing your plant layout with lean methodology here.  
  • Unused Talent or ingenuity: Employees’ opinions and skills should be taken into account when improving manufacturing processes. Their feedback and experiences help map the value stream as well as in ensuring the right people are in the right seats.

We bet you read about each of the eight wastes and understood how they hurt production. However, they can be simplified even more into three categories for further comprehension:

Mura: or unevenness. Mura encapsulates the waste caused by changes in demand, whether that is changes in demand from a customer or from within the company. Changes in demand hurt the flow.

Muri: or overburden. Muri focuses on the waste created from trying to do too much at once. Resources are often allocated poorly when there is too much work.

  • Muda: or non-value-adding work. Muda centers on activities in your process that do not add value to the customer. Some of these activities like training and practice cannot be controlled. It is what it is. However, some activities like plant layout, data flow, and others can have waste that needs to be eliminated.

After you have identified the value to the customer and mapped your value stream, it will be much easier to identify which of these wastes you have in your process. The lean manufacturing process is designed to simplify your manufacturing and highlight problems. 

As a business consulting agency, we take companies through the whole lean process. However, we find ourselves focusing on Muda the most for companies. Muda has the most impactful improvements to be had. Meet with us. We can help remove the non-value-adding work in your business.

Tips for Implementing Lean Manufacturing

We specialize in applying lean methodology to manufacturing processes for companies. Here are a few tips we’ve picked up over the years: 

  • Continuously improve for perfection. Implementing changes in your processes is an investment. It costs you. Continuous improvement leads to perfection but it also leads to a diminishing return on investments. The first few kaizen events, or implementations, will give you big improvements. You will be picking the low-hanging fruit. But improvements may be less in impact, but contribute to the overall improvement strived for. 
  • You need full support in your lean efforts. Your lean manufacturing efforts need to be supported at the highest level of your business. Otherwise, you will be limited in what you can influence and improve.  
  • Be aware that lean is not a quick fix. You can only eat an elephant a bite at a time. As such, take your continuous improvement one problem at a time so you have the bandwidth to find the best solutions.  
  • Lastly, fully understand the problem you are trying to solve. You are looking for solutions to specific problems with lean manufacturing. Clearly identify and define the problem before solving anything.  

We can give you the clarity you need to start improving your flow and saving time. 

Why is Lean Manufacturing Important?

Lean is the proven operational method to follow. It is structured to create flow in your value streams and processes. As a result, information and products are cycled through their respective networks quicker, quality is improved, and bottlenecks are removed. Some people see lean manufacturing as a way to increase profits, others as a way to increase customer satisfaction. It really depends on your goals. But here are the main benefits that have made lean manufacturing so widely adopted: 

  • Improved Processes: When you seek continuous improvement, you will find problems in your processes and fix them, making operations more efficient. 
  • Reduced Lead Times: Improving processes and their efficiencies inevitably reduces time and saves you money associated with lost time, such as labor and energy costs.  
  • Reducing Costs: With all these benefits stacking up, you save your company money. Each waste, be it wasted material, time, or expertise, costs your business unnecessarily.  
  • Quality Improvement: When applying lean, you are asked to find the values to the customer. You must meet changes in your customers’ needs in order to stay competitive. Processes must be designed to meet their expectations. Adopting quality management to meet customer expectations improves the quality of your products and customer satisfaction as a result.  
  • Better Managed Inventory: Just-in-time production reduces costs and prevents production issues by reducing excess inventory that is not being used. 

Looking for more information on lean manufacturing? The ReliablePlant blog also covers the topic extensively. 

How Do We Help with Lean Manufacturing?

Let’s make lean manufacturing simple. Through our years of experience, we know what works and what doesn’t. We can identify the tools you need and apply them in the appropriate situations. We understand your problems and can give you clarity and time by helping you apply lean methodology. Don’t try to figure it all out yourself.