Lean manufacturing is a management philosophy implemented because of the value that it creates. Major manufacturers use lean manufacturing to improve efficiency, eliminate waste, provide higher value to customers, and improve employee morale. But what is lean? In this blog post, we look at the 5 key lean manufacturing principles and their benefits to both manufacturers and customers.
What is Lean Manufacturing?
Lean manufacturing is a series of applied processes and tools that eliminate waste from production. Improved efficiency, effectiveness, and even profitability are all byproducts of lean manufacturing.
Further, lean manufacturing is an adaptation of the Toyota Production System (TPS) and its 4 principles. At its core, lean manufacturing is waste elimination and continuous improvement.
5 Key Lean Manufacturing Principles
1. Specify Value
What do your customers value? Value goes hand-in-hand with what customers are willing to pay for a product. When thinking lean, identify what drives value for your specific customers. Questions to assess value include: What problems does my product offering solve? What specific product features are my customers looking to pay for?
Always be sure to determine value from the customer perspective (not yours) and by product family. Lean Manufacturing Tools states that a product or service is only valued for 5% of our time. In Lean Manufacturing Tools’ article on lean thinking, the author continues:
“The rest of the time we spend in wasteful pursuits; we are waiting, reworking, transporting, moving and a host of other wasteful things that the customer does not consider to be something that they should pay for.”
2. Identify the Value Stream
Any processes and materials necessary to deliver a product to customers make up value streams. Lean thinkers map out value streams to analyze delays, inefficiencies, and production limitations as well as value-creating steps.
Any steps that don’t create value should be eliminated. Flagged process steps that create no value due to technology or manufacturing limitations become opportunities for improvement.
3. Establish Flow
Once value-creating steps have been identified, they should occur in sequence. Flow ensures smooth progression from the start of production to the finished product delivered to the customer. This lean manufacturing principle ensures the product will flow smoothly to your customers. The goal in creating value stream flow is having continuous, synchronized production.
4. Pull Value
Lean manufacturing principles are core to eliminating excess waste. Establishing pull is no different. Once flow is introduced, customers will begin to pull value from the next upstream activity. Pull creates a just-in-time or on-demand model. Ideally, production does not begin until customer orders are received. Pull eliminates work-in-progress inventory and waste from incorrect production forecasts.
5. Strive for Perfection
The final lean manufacturing principle is seeking perfection. Lean thinkers look for opportunities of improvement in each part of the value stream. Identify and remove root causes of issues from your production processes to target perfection. This principle is a group effort and requires everyone to drive it – from the production floor to the C-suite.
Remember, when going lean you’re always pursuing perfection!
Other Benefits of Lean
When it comes to lean, manufacturers aren’t the only ones to benefit. Lean manufacturing eliminates practices that don’t add value to customers. In ASME’s article, 5 Lean Principles Every Engineer Should Know, contributor Mark Crawford writes that lean isn’t pigeon-holed to manufacturing. Crawford suggests applying lean thinking to improve team efficiency, inventory management, and client interaction.
Additionally, lean drives higher quality and increases customer satisfaction. “When waste is removed from customer service processes, delays, inconvenience, mistakes, and costs also are eliminated,” summarizes CompuData Inc.
Likewise, lean principles are applicable to workforce management. Lean manufacturing is made up of key principles. Lean manufacturing removes defective machinery and equipment. As a result, lean increases workplace safety by lessening the possibility of machine breakdown.
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