Lean manufacturing is a system/method of manufacturing that primarily focuses on reducing waste. Applying the methods to achieve lean manufacturing can reduce waste while maintaining high quality no matter what operation you’re running. Many organizations advocate the use of lean manufacturing in order to grow more profitable and innovative. Let’s look at the five principles of lean manufacturing.
The first principle of lean manufacturing requires businesses to gain a detailed understanding of what value their customer assigns to product and services. Value is essentially what the customer is willing to pay for. Understanding value allows a business to create a top-down target price. Accordingly, the feasible cost of production can be determined. There are several techniques like interviews, surveys, demographic information, and web analytics that can help you decipher and understand what customers find valuable.
Map the Value Stream
The second principle of lean manufacturing is tracking and mapping the value stream. The value stream is the product’s complete life-cycle from the raw materials through to the customer’s use and disposal of the product. This is done in order to use the customer’s value as a reference point and identify all the activities that contribute to these values. Steps, materials and activities that do not add value to the end customer are considered waste. The unnecessary processes that are waste need to be eliminated in order to reduce the cost of production.
The third lean principle is creating flow. After having removed the waste from the system, the next step is to ensure that the flow of production from one step to the other is smooth and without interruption. This requires items to move from production to shipping without interruption. This can be achieved by strategically organizing the work floor, reconfiguring the production steps, leveling out the workload, creating cross-functional departments, and training employees to be multi-skilled and adaptive.
The fourth lean principle is establishing a pull-based manufacturing system. Contrary to the traditional push-based system, the pull system pulls a customer’s order, and then prompts new items to be manufactured and signals that additional supplies need to be purchased. This requires a high level of flexibility and short design to delivery cycle times. The goal this system is to limit inventory and work in process (WIP) items while ensuring that the requisite materials and information are available for a smooth flow of work.
The last and most important principle is to pursue perfection. This principle encourages businesses to constantly strive for perfection along each step of the production process. This can be done through Kaizen, the Japanese philosophy of continuous improvement. Kaizen focuses on making small, incremental changes and requires every worker to help improve business practices.
The lean manufacturing principles help organizations reduce waste, cut costs, maximize output, reduce inventories, and eliminate overproduction and underproduction. It is an efficient method of production used to gain a competitive edge in today’s global market.