First employed by Taiichi Ohno in the Toyota Production System, lean methodology can help manufacturers of all sizes boost their productivity and profits. Due to its success, the methodology has been adopted by countless companies across a variety of industries.
Small and medium-sized manufacturers (SMMs) that cultivate a lean culture at their companies can reduce waste, boost efficiencies, and become more sustainable.
Lean manufacturing aims to eliminate any steps within a business or work process that do not create "value" as defined by the customer — when implementing Lean, all tasks performed must be viewed through the lens of value-added work and non-value-added work. Value-added work directly creates the features, characteristics, and benefits that the customer desires and is willing to pay for (e.g., operating the machine that produces a plastic comb). Non-value-added work is made up of tasks that the customer does not care about and does not want to pay for (e.g., material and labor costs from scrap products passed on to the customer in the price of the comb).
You can dive deeper into the fundamental principles of lean manufacturing here.
Going lean has many advantages. Most notably, it can facilitate your company’s ongoing improvement. By optimizing your workflows continuously, you can boost your:
Employing a lean methodology can also improve your customer satisfaction. This is because lean manufacturing helps SMMs identify the products, features, processes, and activities customers care about the most. By prioritizing customer satisfaction at every stage of your manufacturing process, you’ll be more likely to meet consumers’ needs and earn their repeat business.
You can find even more reasons to love lean manufacturing in this article.
Flaws that get detected during manufacture or inspection can be addressed in-house but may result in more time, money, and resource costs, as well as customer delivery delays.
Excess production builds undemanded inventory, which carries obsolescence risk and can clog up your value stream since you have to use resources to transport and store them.
You can eliminate bottlenecks by strategically scheduling the delivery time of new materials, balancing line steps in your workflows, preventing shipping delays, and proactively repairing and maintaining your machines.
Engaging and making space for people to perform their best and improve their skill sets is a win-win solution. Include workers and operators in troubleshooting and planning to improve their areas in order to utilize their firsthand knowledge effectively.
Simply identify inefficiencies in your current workflows and make adjustments to minimize product movements and distances.
A Kanban scheduling system can help you prevent excess inventory by visualizing your workflow’s inputs and outputs.
You can improve your employees’ ergonomics and eliminate movement waste by adjusting the order, location, or placement of tools and materials within the workplace.
When working on a Lean waste review and action plan, keep an eye out for any steps or habits primarily based on “this is how we’ve always done it” rather than current manufacturing needs.
If you’re ready to adopt a lean approach to manufacturing, here are a few tips to get you started:
When you start your lean manufacturing journey, you’ll naturally face some challenges along the way. However, you can overcome these challenges by maintaining an open dialogue with your employees and securing the support of your company’s leadership early on.
Once everyone is on the same page, training your employees and teaching them about lean manufacturing principles is essential. One memorable way to do this is to host a “waste walk” where you analyze your manufacturing workflows through a lean manufacturing lens.
After implementing lean adjustments, make sure to track their progress and update them as needed. You can also use visual management tools to standardize your new policies and procedures.