What are the Most Important Principles of Lean Manufacturing?

Reading time ( words)

Lean manufacturing is nothing new, but it remains an important philosophy for manufacturers seeking to grow and effectively contend in a competitive, global environment. Essentially, it provides you with the tools to successfully identify and eliminate waste within your operation.

Waste comes in numerous forms, from physical waste (such as components and packaging), to metaphysical waste (such as time and effort expended). In whatever shape it occurs, waste has a detrimental impact on your output, efficiency and bottom line.

Through implementing lean manufacturing, you can focus only on what adds value to your operation, thereby enabling you to reach your business goals. In this post, we will outline the most important principles of lean manufacturing and explore how these can benefit your organization.

Lean Manufacturing and Toyota

Lean manufacturing is generally associated with the Toyota Production System (TPS), which is "steeped in the philosophy of 'the complete elimination of all waste' imbuing all aspects of production in pursuit of the most efficient methods".

TPS is based on two concepts: "The first is called 'jidoka' (which can be loosely translated as 'automation with a human touch'), which means that when a problem occurs, the equipment stops immediately, preventing defective products from being produced. The second is the concept of 'Just-in-Time', in which each process produces only what is needed by the next process in a continuous flow."

By applying these concepts, Toyota has been able to successfully manufacture high-quality vehicles on a consistent basis, and to their customers' requirements. In fact, Toyota is the world's largest car manufacturer – so it's hard to argue with their approach!

What Does Waste Look Like?

Toyota identifies seven different types of waste or "muda" ("futility", "uselessness" or "wastefulness" in Japanese). These were originally coined by Toyota's late chief engineer, Taiichi Ohno, and are (with examples):

  1. Transport – moving products unnecessarily
  2. Inventory – unwanted components etc.
  3. Motion – unnecessary movement of people or equipment
  4. Waiting – superfluous downtime
  5. Overproduction – manufacturing more product than is required
  6. Over processing – using complex tools where simpler ones would be sufficient
  7. Defects – spending time resolving preventable issues

By focusing your attention on each of these areas - all of which are non-value adding - and working out where improvements can be made, you can gradually decrease the amount of waste generated by your organisation. There are a number of tools that enable this – for example, Six Sigma, which focuses on reducing errors, and 5S, which is concerned with "continuous improvement".

The Role of Culture in Lean Manufacturing  

While lean manufacturing derives from TPS, the term "lean" was actually coined by John Krafcik in his 1988 article, "Triumph of the Lean Production System", which remains relevant today.

Writing on his blog, "lean healthcare" consultant Mark Graban says, “I recommend [Krafcik's article] to lean practitioners and leaders today, not just as a historical artefact, but because its key points are still valid and relevant. What makes a ‘lean production system?’ It’s not the tools; it’s the management style and the culture. That was true in 1988 and it’s true today.

“[Krafcik] didn’t write about tools like 5S, kanban systems, or heijunka boxes. He wrote primarily about management, leadership, and culture.”

This is an incredibly important point to make. There is a host of resources out there, to help you become a “lean” organization – but, with the best will in the world, you won't succeed in your endeavor without engaging with this philosophy on a human level; without making sure that your entire team is on board and understands the importance of what you're doing.

That's why it's helpful to understand lean manufacturing as a philosophy – it’s a holistic way of thinking and working that should inform every element of your manufacturing process. It's crucial to adopt the right mindset before rolling out the practical changes required.

At its most basic level, lean manufacturing reduces waste within your manufacturing operation. As a consequence, you can increase your productivity, better serve the needs of your customers and grow your organization, ready to compete in today’s fast-changing and exciting environment.

This article originally appeared on the JJS Manufacturing blog, which can be found here.


Suggested Items

Electronic Components Market Update

10/04/2018 | Daniella Baldock, JJS Manufacturing
Unfortunately, there is still no end in sight to the electronic component shortage, and some lead-times are being quoted with 2019 and even 2020 delivery dates! So if you are working with an EMS provider, it remains vital that you communicate and share forecast information with them. You may also want to start looking at the option of fitting, or designing in, smaller components to your PCB assemblies.

What SMT Component Shortages Mean for Design and Manufacturing Engineers

09/13/2018 | Russell Poppe, JJS Manufacturing
Much has been written about the increasing shortages of electronic components such as MLCCs, chip resistors and other semiconductor devices. And the manufacturing industry is now seeing price increases and greatly extended lead times. It seems the situation is likely to get rapidly worse rather than better. What can we do? Read on.

5 Supply Chain Questions to Ask Your Assembly Partner

08/16/2018 | Neil Sharp, JJS Manufacturing
A key question for any OEM who may be considering outsourcing production is whether to maintain its existing supply chain or to hand those crucial purchasing decisions over to its assembly partner. This article highlights five questions to ask a potential assembly partner before handing over the responsibility for your supply chain management.

Copyright © 2022 I-Connect007. All rights reserved.