Lean Manufacturing – what it is and how to manage it

lean manufactoring

Lean manufacturing, in Italian “lean production”, deals with one of the worst things that can happen to any organization: the wastes.

Not taking full advantage of all resources means losing efficiency and, in the worst cases, even halting the production.

These neglected resources cover everything from production project management tools to the skills of staff members.

The industry in general is obviously crammed with waste. Whether they are inactive workers or unused materials that cannot be recycled or reused, the results are the same: a hindrance to productivity.

This emphasis on eliminating waste is where the idea of lean manufacturing as a management system developed.

The lessons learnt from this methodology can be universally applied.

Lean manufacturing principles can help business processes achieve efficiencies and, as a result, become more effective and competitive in any market.

Key principles of lean manufacturing

There are several key principles in lean manufacturing and their lack of understanding and correct implementation may result in ineffectiveness of the process.

This commitment must be embraced by the leaders and communicated to the entire organization.

Full understanding and commitment to lean principles will promote a common approach and strategy throughout the organization.

So let’s see what the key principles of lean manufacturing are and how to implement them.

Elimination of the 7 wastes

One of the most critical and fundamental principles of lean production is the elimination of waste and many of the other principles that revolve around this concept.

There are 7 basic types of waste in production:

  • Overproduction
  • Waste of movements
  • Inventory waste
  • Defect production
  • Waste of standby
  • Waste of transportation
  • Waste of excessive processing

Eliminating this wastage allows the company to focus on key activities and added value for the customer.

Every principle of Lean Manufacturing is, in the end, oriented to give more value to the final customer.

Continuous improvement – Kaizen

Continuous improvement – commonly referred to by the Japanese word “kaizen” – is also one of the most critical principles of lean production.

Without continuous improvement, the progress would stop.

As the name suggests, continuous improvement promotes constant and necessary changes towards the achievement of a desired state.

Continuous improvement should be a widespread mentality at all levels of an organization.
the lean manufactoring

Respect for people

The most valuable resource for any company is the people who work for it and for this reason one of the lean principles regards precisely the workers.

Without people, organizations cannot be successful.

This approach allows the company to leverage and use the collective problem-solving capabilities of employees to help improve.

When people do not feel respected, they tend to lose respect for the organization. Team members need to feel safe, protected and challenged in their job.

An organization that supports respect for the philosophy of humanity would appreciate and value the efforts of its workers.

Leveled production – Heijunka

The basis of this principle is that the workload is the same – and therefore at the same level – every day.

Most manufacturing companies are wrongly at the mercy of their customers for their orders. Before they produce the product, they wait for orders and this leads to an increase in delivery times that may not meet the needs of customers.

At the other end of the spectrum, some companies may produce based strictly on a forecast. This can result in over-production that is not requested by the customer.

Leveled production takes into account both forecasting and order history.

Just In Time Production – JIT

The fundament of the “Just in Time” principle is to build what is required, when it is required and in the required quantity.

In combination with leveled production, this principle allows the movement and production of parts only when required.

This means that the components are not used in the unnecessary product and no time is wasted in building unsaleable products.

The JIT principle uses continuous flow and time to match the production directly to the pace of customer sales.

Integrated quality – Jidoka

The idea behind this principle is that quality should be integrated into the production process.

Quality is integrated into the design of the piece, the packaging and all areas of the product, from the design to the shipping.

The Jidoka principle adds quality to the process through detection or prevention.

Each lean manufacturing process will be planned to highlight any anomalies so that the employee can interrupt the process.

Halting the process so that the problem can be resolved is a key part of Jidoka’s lean principle.

Lean Manufacturing’s objectives

Reducing or eliminating waste is therefore essential to support project management. Let’s see what are Lean Manufacturing‘s final objectives:

  • Improve quality: In order to remain competitive, organizations cannot be complacent, but must meet the changing needs and desires of customers. Therefore, processes must be designed to meet their expectations and requirements.
  • Eliminate waste: waste is detrimental to costs, time and resources without adding value to a product or service.
  • Shorten timeframes: Time is money, as the saying goes, and wasting time means wasting money. Shortening the time it takes to start and finish a project will create value by adding efficiencies.
  • Reduce total costs: Money is saved when an organization does not waste time, materials and personnel in unnecessary activities. Overproduction also increases storage and warehousing costs. Understanding the triple constraint is the first step towards the understanding of cost management.

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