Lean Manufacturing

What is Lean Manufacturing?

Lean manufacturing (production) was originally developed at the Toyota Motor Company and was called the Toyota Production System (TPS). The word lean is used in the sense of thin, having no waste and taking out elements of the production process that do not add overall value to the finished product. Lean thinking is “lean” because it provides a way to do more and more on less and less. Wastes can be put into perspective in seven areas:

  • Transportation - Unnecessary movements of vehicles, parts, or the plant of machinery.
  • Inventory - Storing too much inventory or components.
  • Motion – Movement of people that adds nothing to the production process.
  • Waiting – Inactivity of people or machinery waiting for inputs.
  • Overproduction – producing more goods than required.
  • Over-processing – Having additional unnecessary steps in the production process.
  • Defects – Faults or errors that need re-work or scrapping.

What are the five principles of Lean Manufacturing?

The five principles of lean manufacturing are considered a recipe for improving work-place efficiency.

  • Define value: What is the customer willing to pay for the product?
  • Map out the value stream: Using the customer value as a reference point, map out the activities that provide value and the unnecessary ones.
  • Create a flow:After removing waste, ensure the remaining steps run smoothly.
  • Establish a pull:Limit inventory and apply JIT (Just in Time) to synch with demand.
  • Perfect:Continue to fine-tune and perfect processes. a

What is the difference between Lean and Agile?

For an organisation to be ‘lean’ it must have had all non-essential resources removed (ie. anything that does not add value). This is efficient and cost effective, in that the value/supply chain can theoretically do exactly what is needed of it and no more, but requires sound forecasting and planning of demand and supply. It is most suitable for industries with stable product specifications, long lead times and few impulse purchases.

Organisations which are ‘agile’ react as quickly as is practicable to provide a cost effective response to customer demand. This is based on flexibility in design, supply, production and distribution. It is most appropriate for products such as fast fashion and foodstuffs which must be on display and available when wanted by the customer.

Why would a company adopt lean manufacturing production methods?

Lean manufacturing (production) is a business philosophy, a strategic tool and a process improvement programme employed to drive organisations towards cost reduction, strategic positioning for advantage, improved quality and profitability.

What are the benefits of a Lean supply chain?

Core principles in the implementation process of lean production are:

  • Waste elimination
  • Pull Scheduling
  • Multifunctional teams

Should every company adopt Lean supply chain techniques?

Lean supply chain is not for every organisation as there is potential to limit creativity and innovation within the organisation, so before moving onto lean production, companies should analyse the payoff to ensure that it has enough manpower and access to the capital needed to undertake the project ensuring that there are no competing priorities and hidden costs.

To find out more about this subject read the full knowledge paper: Lean manufacturing production and Lean supply chain

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Lean Manufacturing


Case Study - MRP Introduction Saves Time and Money

Jianguo’s Jigsaws is a small family-owned business working from a rented unit on the outskirts of a major city.

During 2019 Jianguo, the business owner, noticed that his profits were not where he has predicted them to be despite the business having exceeded the predicted sales forecast.

The mark-up was sufficient in Jianguo’s opinion for an acceptable profit to be made so why...Read More

For additional reading on this topic visit Operations Management


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