What Are Lean Manufacturing Techniques?

What are Lean Manufacturing techniques

Quite often, during my training, I got a reasonable question: What are lean manufacturing techniques? Well, taking into account that the Lean concept doesn’t spread at all business levels, I considered being a very important subject that I will treat in this article.

Lean manufacturing is a production and inventory management system that focuses on eliminating wasteful activities while optimizing productivity. This may include improving customer service, shortening delivery times, increasing quality output, and reducing production costs.

By rethinking traditional processes and focusing on eliminating waste at all stages of the manufacturing process, organizations can achieve improved performance with reduced or no additional resources or investment.

Some common examples of lean manufacturing techniques include just-in-time production, total quality management, 5S workplace organization, continuous process improvement (Kaizen), Kanban production scheduling, standard operating procedures, and visual factory assessments.

Here’s everything you need to know!

1) What is Lean Manufacturing?

What Are Lean Manufacturing Techniques
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Lean manufacturing is an approach to streamlining production and reducing waste through the elimination of non-value-adding activities. The goal of lean manufacturing is to maximize customer value while minimizing waste. It seeks to identify and eliminate sources of waste, such as long lead times, excessive inventory, and excessive motion, to improve both the efficiency and effectiveness of production processes.

Lean manufacturing techniques are based on the Toyota Production System (TPS) developed by the Toyota Motor Corporation in Japan. TPS focuses on eliminating waste in all areas of production to maximize efficiency and minimize costs. Lean manufacturing principles seek to reduce the amount of time it takes to move materials, information, and goods from the point of raw material acquisition to the point of sale.

The key principles of lean manufacturing involve identifying what activities add value to the customer and then working to streamline those activities. By reducing waste and streamlining processes, lean manufacturing seeks to increase efficiency and productivity while reducing costs and lead times.

2) The History of Lean Manufacturing

In the 1950s, Taiichi Ohno, a Toyota executive, further developed this system and coined the term “lean manufacturing” to describe it. This system focused on reducing waste and increasing value. Ohno identified seven wastes associated with production: overproduction, waiting, transportation, processing, inventory, motion, and defects. He then developed principles that manufacturers could use to address these wastes and improve their production processes.

Since then, lean manufacturing has been widely adopted in many industries around the world. It has been used to improve product quality, reduce lead times, and increase customer satisfaction. As a result, it has become an integral part of many successful businesses and remains a popular methodology for achieving cost savings and process efficiency.

3) The Seven Wastes of Lean Manufacturing

The 7 types of waste
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Lean manufacturing is all about eliminating waste in the production process. This idea is embodied in the concept of the “Seven Wastes,” which can be thought of as the opposite of value-adding activities. These are activities that do not add value to the customer or the product and should be eliminated as much as possible. The seven wastes are:

1. Overproduction – Producing more than necessary to meet customer demand.

2. Waiting – Delay between operations that don’t add value.

3. Transportation – Moving materials, people, and information from one point to another.

4. Overprocessing – Applying too much or the wrong type of processing to a product or service.

5. Inventory – Excess raw materials, work in progress, and finished goods not needed for current operations.

6. Motion – Unnecessary motion of people or machines used to move material.

7. Defects – Scrap, rework, and poor quality products or services.

By eliminating these wastes in the production process, companies are able to reduce costs, increase efficiency, and improve the overall quality of their products and services. By understanding the Seven Wastes, businesses can identify opportunities to make improvements that can have a real impact on their bottom line.

Let’s take a look at the main important tools through which we can remove waste from our operations.

4) The 5S System

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5S system, also known as “good housekeeping” or “visual workplace”, is a set of organizational and housekeeping methods derived from the Japanese manufacturing industry. The goal of the 5S System is to reduce waste, increase efficiency, and maintain a safe and clean work environment.

5S stands for: Sort, Set in Order, Shine, Standardize and Sustain.

Sort (Seiri)

This step involves identifying which items are essential to the process and which can be eliminated. It involves sorting through items and getting rid of any unnecessary items or materials.

Set in Order (Seiton)

This step involves organizing items according to their frequency of use. Items should be kept within easy reach of workers to avoid wasting time looking for them. A visual system of labels and markings should be used to make items easier to find.

Shine (Seiso)

This step involves cleaning and maintaining the work environment on a regular basis. This includes everything from dusting off machines to keeping floors free of debris.

Standardize (Seiketsu)

In this step, you set up a set of standard operating procedures (SOPs) for each process to make sure they are all the same and run smoothly. These SOPs should be documented and made available to all employees.

Sustain (Shitsuke)

Making sure the 5S system is applied consistently over time is the goal of this step. This includes regularly auditing the workplace and reviewing the effectiveness of the system.

Using the 5S system can bring a lot of benefits to any business, helping to cut costs, and make the workplace safer and more efficient.

5) Value Stream Mapping

Value Stream Mapping
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The VSM process involves creating a map of the current state of the process, detailing all the activities required to produce a product or service. This includes things such as raw material procurement, production steps, transportation, inspection, packaging, and shipping. Once this map is created, any areas that can be improved or eliminated are identified, and changes are made to reduce lead times and improve efficiency.

Curent State analysys

The Current State Map is an illustration of the existing process, including all the steps, resources, and information flows required to complete it. It also includes an analysis of what wastes exist in the process, such as long wait times between tasks, unnecessary motion, or incorrect production sequences.

Future state projection

The Future State Map builds on the Current State Map by adding symbols to identify which improvements are being implemented. These symbols are commonly known as “flow arrows” and they show the path that materials and information should take in order to increase efficiency and reduce waste.

By visually mapping out their processes, organizations can identify areas for improvement, look for ways to eliminate waste from the process and ensure that their processes are aligned with their goals and objectives.

Value Stream Mapping is an effective way to improve productivity and optimize workflow.

The main benefits of using VSM are that it allows for a deep understanding of the entire production system and helps identify which areas need improvement and why.

6) Kanban

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Kanban is a visual system for managing work in manufacturing, software development, and other fields. It is used to create a visual representation of the workflow and identify potential issues.

The Kanban system is based on the Japanese concept of just-in-time (JIT) production, which aims to improve efficiency and reduce waste. The key elements of Kanban are the visual boards, cards, and limits on the number of items that can be in progress at any given time.

Kanban boards are divided into columns and represent the stages of a process from start to finish. Tasks are represented as cards that are placed on the board and moved along as work progresses. Different colors or symbols can be used to indicate different types of tasks. Each column can have limits on how many cards can be placed in it, so work doesn’t get backed up. This helps to keep the process moving smoothly.

Kanban also has rules that govern how tasks are added to and removed from the board. For example, a rule might be that all tasks must be approved by a certain person before they can be added to the board. This ensures that the workflow is planned out and tasks are not added without considering the impact they may have on the overall process.

The Kanban system is designed to be flexible and adaptable, allowing teams to make changes quickly in order to optimize the workflow. This makes it a great choice for organizations that need to be agile and responsive to changing needs.

7) Kaizen

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Kaizen is a Japanese term that means “continuous improvement”. It is an essential tool of lean manufacturing and is used to identify and eliminate waste in processes and operations. Kaizen focuses on small, incremental changes that make processes more efficient, reduce costs, and improve product quality.

Kaizen encourages everyone in the organization to make small improvements over time. It relies on the belief that any process can be improved, no matter how well it is currently performing.

Kaizen requires employees to actively engage in the improvement process. Everyone from top-level executives to front-line employees should be involved in finding ways to make their processes more efficient.

The philosophy behind Kaizen is to look for small changes that result in large gains. This could mean anything from changing the layout of an assembly line to reorganizing the sequence of steps in a process. It also involves identifying potential improvements and then implementing them quickly.

Kaizen encourages collaboration among all levels of the organization and empowers everyone to make changes that benefit the company as a whole. Its emphasis on continual improvement provides a system for organizations to continuously adapt and remain competitive.

With Kaizen, companies can not only become more efficient, but they can also improve the morale of their employees and increase employee engagement in the process.

8) Poka-Yoke – avoiding human errors

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Poka-Yoke is an essential part of the lean manufacturing process and refers to techniques that are used to prevent mistakes from happening in the first place. The term “Poka-Yoke” comes from a Japanese phrase that means “error-proofing” or “mistake-proofing.”

The main purpose of Poka-Yoke is to help reduce or even eliminate errors caused by humans. This can be done through different methods, such as setting up signals or alarms, forcing people to use a certain tool or technique, and providing visual cues that allow for easier identification of mistakes. By implementing Poka-Yoke, companies can save time and money by avoiding unnecessary repairs, scrap costs, and rework due to human errors.

One of the most common forms of Poka-Yoke is the use of checkpoints. This involves setting up certain points throughout the production process where workers must check if the product meets certain requirements before it can move on to the next step.

Other forms of Poka-Yoke include using products with built-in sensors that detect problems automatically and provide workers with detailed instructions for each step in the production process.

This can help companies become more competitive and remain ahead of their competitors in terms of product quality and cost-effectiveness.

9) Jidoka

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Jidoka, also known as the “automation with a human touch” principle, is one of the core principles of lean management. This principle revolves around the idea that machines should be used to supplement human labor and not replace it. It was originally developed by Toyota and has since become a cornerstone of lean production.

In Jidoka, machines are designed to detect abnormalities or problems and stop themselves immediately when they detect an issue. This allows the operator to quickly notice and address the problem, thereby avoiding any potential losses from incorrect products or downtime.

The main aim of Jidoka is to create a working environment where human operators and machines can work together more efficiently. By incorporating this principle into production processes, manufacturers are able to reduce errors and increase quality control by taking advantage of the strengths of both humans and machines.

The best way to implement Jidoka is by setting up a system of checks and balances throughout the production process. This allows for fast detection of problems and instant feedback to the workers and machines involved in the process. In order to maximize the efficiency of the process, it is important to have clear protocols in place and ensure that all operators are properly trained.

Overall, Jidoka is an effective way to leverage technology and automate parts of production while still allowing for human input and oversight.

10) Total Quality Management (TQM)

Total Quality Management
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TQM strives to create an environment where employees are empowered to work together to identify areas for improvement and develop solutions to increase quality and efficiency. Companies must focus on understanding customer needs, managing costs, increasing efficiency, and preventing defects. Companies that successfully implement TQM have better customer loyalty, increased customer satisfaction, improved customer service, and increased profits.

The most important aspect of TQM is that it requires a culture change within the organization. Companies must foster an environment where everyone works together to improve processes, reduce waste, and increase customer satisfaction. By constantly measuring and monitoring performance, organizations can identify problem areas and work to make improvements. Implementing TQM requires a comprehensive commitment from all levels of the organization, and a willingness to continuously improve processes and products.

TQM starts with understanding customer expectations and then strives to consistently meet or exceed those expectations. This can be done through continuous improvement activities, such as incorporating feedback from customers into product design, establishing measurable goals, and using data-driven decision-making.

TQM also emphasizes the importance of measuring quality through tools like statistical process control, which monitors production performance over time. It also encourages employees to identify and address problems quickly, rather than allowing them to linger.

TQM is a powerful way to ensure that all stakeholders in the company—employees, customers, and management—are focused on the same goal: providing customers with the highest possible quality products and services.

By adopting TQM principles, companies can save time and money in the long run by preventing problems before they occur and efficiently solving them when they do.

11) Single-Minute Exchange of Die (SMED)

Single-Minute Exchange of Die
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Single-Minute Exchange of Die (SMED) is a lean manufacturing technique designed to reduce the amount of time needed to change out parts, tools, and dies in production processes. The goal of SMED is to reduce the changeover time as much as possible and make it as efficient as possible. This way, manufacturers are able to get the most out of their machinery and save time when changing out dies.

SMED is typically used when performing regular maintenance or when changing out tools in order to produce different products. It involves breaking down the changeover process into two parts: external and internal. External activities involve setup tasks that can be completed before the machine is stopped, such as pre-positioning new tools and getting materials ready. Internal activities are performed after the machine has been stopped, such as die replacement and cleaning the machine for the new product.

When done correctly, SMED can significantly reduce changeover times, resulting in shorter downtimes and higher throughputs. In addition, SMED can help prevent accidents and defects by reducing human error and increasing precision during the changeover process.

12) Visual Factory

Visual Factory
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Visual Factory is a lean manufacturing technique that emphasizes the use of visual cues in order to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of production processes. By utilizing visual aids, it’s easier to identify opportunities for improvement or areas where processes can be optimized.

Visual Factory also makes it easier to spot discrepancies and problems within a system quickly, without the need for lengthy reports or analyses.

Visual cues are displayed in the form of charts, diagrams, photographs, and other visuals to ensure that all team members are aware of what is expected of them at any given point in the production process. This helps to eliminate unnecessary or redundant steps, ensuring that only those tasks that are absolutely necessary for the completion of the job are carried out. Additionally, visuals help to minimize errors and maintain a consistent quality of the product.

In addition to utilizing visual cues, Visual Factory also makes use of standardization, which ensures that everyone on the production line is working toward the same goals, making it easier to eliminate inconsistencies and reach the desired outcome.

Standardization also creates a sense of uniformity throughout the production line, allowing for more efficient workflows and improved process optimization.

Finally, Visual Factory promotes ongoing improvement in an effort to achieve better results. It encourages workers to take ownership of their roles and responsibilities while providing them with the necessary tools and information to make improvements.

13) Lean Supply Chain Management

Lean Supply Chain Management
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Lean Supply Chain Management (LSCM) is a concept that is used to optimize the efficiency and effectiveness of supply chain processes. This approach focuses on eliminating waste, improving flow, and increasing customer satisfaction.

LSCM works by first analyzing the current state of the supply chain and mapping out areas that need improvement. It then involves developing strategies and making necessary changes to streamline processes, improve inventory control, and reduce costs. Finally, it requires implementing a continuous improvement process to ensure that the desired results are maintained over time.

In order to be successful with LSCM, organizations must have an in-depth understanding of the supply chain process and recognize that small changes can have a significant impact. Lean Supply Chain Management is not a one-time project; it is an ongoing journey of continual improvement.

14) Andon

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Andon is a Japanese term that refers to an automated signaling system that alerts production personnel and management of any abnormality in the production line. It is also known as a “visual control system” as it provides visual indications of the production process, allowing workers to quickly identify areas of concern or defect.

The Andon system can be used for a variety of tasks, such as monitoring production status, alerting employees of any issues that may arise, and tracking inventory levels. In a manufacturing context, Andon systems can be used to monitor production speed, quality levels, or faulty parts.

The concept of Andon dates back to the 19th century and is believed to have been developed by Sakichi Toyoda, founder of Toyota. It has since been widely adopted in many factories around the world and is seen as an important element of lean manufacturing. The aim of Andon is to provide an early warning system, allowing manufacturers to quickly identify problems and address them before they become larger issues. By having this visual control system in place, manufacturers can better manage the production process and reduce losses due to defects or delays.

Andon systems come in different shapes and sizes, from basic wall-mounted indicators to more complex computerized systems with automated alarms. When integrated with other Lean methods such as 5S and Kaizen, Andon can be a powerful tool for continuous improvement in the manufacturing process.

15) 5 ideas about how lean principles can be used in marketing

Lean Principles combined with Marketing Activities
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Now, let’s be a little bit creative and combine Lean Manufacturing with Digital Marketing. Let’s see 5 ideas about how Lean Principles can be applied to marketing activities.

  1. Lean and Mean Marketing Machine” – Implementing lean manufacturing principles to streamline and optimize your marketing campaigns for maximum efficiency and effectiveness.
  2. Just-in-Time Marketing” – Using lean manufacturing techniques like JIT inventory management to ensure that your marketing messages are reaching consumers at the right time and place.
  3. Marketing Kaizen” – Continuously improving your marketing strategies and tactics through the use of Kaizen, a key principle of lean manufacturing.
  4. Marketing Assembly Line” – Breaking down the components of your marketing campaigns and streamlining them like an assembly line to boost productivity and reduce waste.
  5. Marketing Six Sigma” – Applying Six Sigma methodologies to your marketing efforts to minimize defects or unhappy customers and improve overall performance.

16) Conclusion

Lean manufacturing techniques and tools are an incredibly powerful way to streamline manufacturing processes and increase productivity.

By utilizing the various lean principles such as 5S, Value Stream Mapping, Kaizen, Poka-Yoke, Jidoka, Total Quality Management, Single-Minute Exchange of Die, Kanban, Visual Factory, Lean Supply Chain Management, and Andon, manufacturers can reduce waste and enhance the efficiency of their operations.

Through the implementation of a pull system and Total Productive Maintenance, organizations can create a self-sustaining environment in which quality is prioritized and products can be produced with minimal effort and cost. And that can be seen as a real competitive advance in a continuously changing market.

Over the years, implementing lean manufacturing tools has become a must for automotive companies in order to remain on top in a highly competitive and fast-changing market. Over the years, in addition to the seven types of waste that are frequently identified in the production business model, another type of waste has emerged: unutilized talent, which is becoming increasingly important these days. For this subject, I will dedicate a full article. To stay informed, make sure to subscribe to our newsletter. Don’t miss a beat!

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About the Author

Liviu Prodan

Liviu is an experienced trainer and LifeHacker. He’s been living the ‘Corpo life’ for more than 15 years now and has been a business developer for more than 12 years. His experience brings a lot of relevancy to his space, which he shares on this blog. Now he pursue a career in the Continuous Improvement & Business Development field, as a Lean Six Sigma Master Black Belt, a path that is coherent with his beliefs and gives him a lot of satisfaction.

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