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What Is Lean Manufacturing?

Posted by EHS Insight Resources on July 5, 2019 at 1:27 PM

All businesses want to work smarter, faster, and more efficiently. They want to generate more value for their customers so that their customers continue to see them as the best available option.

The key is knowing how to make your process work.

One approach is lean manufacturing, which requires you to be ruthless in eliminating waste from your production process. Here’s what it is, how it works, and how to do it.

What Is Lean Manufacturing?

Lean manufacturing is actually a simple concept: constantly working to eliminate waste from your manufacturing process.

Alternately, it’s the process of eliminating all practices that don’t add value. It’s related to the concept of lean enterprise, which extends that same principle through your entire supply chain. After all, even the most efficient manufacturer is slowed down by inefficient suppliers.

Think of it as minimalism for the manufacturing industry – keeping only what’s essential and getting rid of everything else.

The Five Principles of Lean Manufacturing

Lean manufacturing is based on five key principles:

  1. Value
  2. Value stream
  3. Flow
  4. Pull
  5. Perfection

Value, in this case, is defined as the customer’s need for a specific product. This need will determine what the customer is willing to pay for it. Once you know the value, you can establish the value stream, which maps the life cycle of the product from raw materials to use by the customer. The point is to critically look at the process to determine what steps add value and which ones don’t. That way, you can eliminate the wasteful steps.

After the wasteful steps are gone, you have to make sure that the remaining steps flow smoothly, without any hiccups along the way. Anything that stops the flow of the process will inevitably create waste in the interim. When your process flows more smoothly, you can dramatically reduce your time to market. This means that the customer can pull the product from you anytime they need it – or, alternately, it means that you don’t make anything until the customer orders it.

Finally, there’s perfection, the most important step in the process. The only way to maintain a truly lean system is to constantly look for ways that your existing system can work more efficiently.

The Eight Wastes of Lean Manufacturing

If you’re paying attention, you’ve already noticed that lean manufacturing focuses a lot on waste.

In this method, there are eight wastes, known under the acronym DOWNTIME:

  • Defects
  • Overproduction
  • Waiting
  • Not utilizing talent
  • Transportation
  • Inventory excess
  • Motion waste
  • Excess processing

The basic premise is that each of these wastes creates a snag in your production process, slowing you down and making you inefficient. If you focus on cutting them out of your process, you’ll have a lean manufacturing system.

Think of it this way: anything that doesn’t create value for the customer is viewed as waste in lean manufacturing. If your goal is to generate more value for your customers, eliminating these wastes will help you do that.

Making the Most of Your Work Process

Your manufacturing system is only as strong as its weakest day. The good news is that there are ways to make your processes better every day.

We know that the problems you face are constantly evolving. That’s why we provide tools that adapt alongside you, whatever your problems might be. We’re proud to provide top of the line solutions to the manufacturing industry and a dozen other industries.

Ready to find out more about how we can make your workplace stronger? Check out our quality management software solutions, or head over to our contact page to start the conversation about what you need and how we can help.

Topics: Industry Insights, Manufacturing

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