What is Lean Manufacturing?

Definition: Lean manufacturing is a production process that aims to identify and steadily remove any kind of waste. This term is largely associated to processes implemented by large manufacturing plants looking for cost and time reduction without sacrificing quality.

What Does Lean Manufacturing Mean?

This term was taken from the Japanese industry in the 90s, more specifically from the large automotive manufacturer Toyota. It is more than simply a method or a process. It is kind of a philosophy in workplaces that promotes sustained improvement in terms of simplifying processes and making the production flow smoother and shorter. Lean Manufacturing aims to reduce the entire production cycle.

Every production step moves closer to the following one with positive results such as minimum inventory, shorter time and waste elimination. People applying Lean Manufacturing permanently look for opportunities to eliminate any work or material that add no value from the customer’s point of view. This philosophy also encourages flexibility whenever is needed to keep the goal of waste elimination.

Example

Johansen and Sons Co. grew at a high rate over the proceeding decade. It manufactures high-quality kitchen appliances with great success in the European markets. The company employs 900 workers. Besides the undoubted achievements the Chief Executive Officer is worried about the sale figures registered during the past year. Attractive, affordable products are marketed everywhere and he thinks that those competitors will continue to take market share from Johansen.

The executive decided to adopt lean manufacturing techniques. Analysis and training took several months but the firm started to adopt the philosophy with high expectations. After two years of implementation the outcome was notable. Inventories diminished significantly, working spaces downsized and production cycle was shortened. As an overall result, the company reduced production costs substantially and thus was able to market its products with the same quality but at more competitive prices.