What is Lean Manufacturing?

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What is lean manufacturing?

Lean manufacturing maximizes customer value and minimizing waste. Lean manufacturing was first coined by James P. Womack in the late 1980’s when he was trying to understand the Toyota Production System, which is what has made Toyota the best manufacturing company in the world for the last few decades. Other than the Toyota Production System, lean manufacturing is also called continuous improvement or process improvement. Lean manufacturing is more than a process it is a culture of systematically reducing waste with employee involvement.

What is process improvement?

Process improvement is essentially the same as lean manufacturing, the term process improvement is used to show that improvements should not be limited to the shop floor or to manufacturing companies. There are processes in every department of every business of every industry, many companies focus their improvements on the production floor, but miss opportunities in material management, engineering, accounting, sales, HR and etc…

What is continuous improvement?

Continuous improvement is yet another term that is used to replace the term lean manufacturing, like process improvement it highlights that improvements should not be limited to the shop floor or to manufacturing companies. The term continuous improvement emphasis that there is never an end to improvement activities as there are always opportunities to further minimize waste.

What is business process management?

Business process management or BPM was originally coined for automating business processes with the use of information technology, but is now used to also incorporate business process that has human interaction. YMB Consulting is help to help companies automate a lot of business processes using the BPM approach with the help of VisualFactory and MISys.

What is value?

In lean manufacturing, Value is defined as a product or service provided to a customer at the right time, the right price as defined in each case by the customer. When reviewing a process and looking for value, we must ask ourselves “are we transforming the product or service in a way that is adding value to the customer?”, if we are not, then we are adding waste. We can also define value by simply saying:”what the customer wants and is willing to pay for”.

What are the different types of waste in manufacturing?

There are 7 different types of waste in manufacturing, these are:

  • Overproduction: This is by far the largest waste in most production companies. Producing material when it is not immediately required is considered overproduction, although this is visible by excess inventory or WIP, it can simply be summarized as “working on the wrong thing”.
  • Inventory: Inventory is a result of overproduction and can expose many companies to cash flow problems, obsolescence and even defects from damaged caused by too much inventory.
  • Defects: If a part needs to be scrapped because of a defect, then all the steps needed to make this scrap part are also waste.
  • Non-Value added processing: This is when employees are adding features to a product that is not required by the customer.
  • Waiting: When employees need to wait for parts, information, direction, etc..
  • Excess motion: Any motion that does not add value to the final product is considered excess motion.
  • Transportation: Moving inventory from one location to another is waste and does not add any value.

What types of industry uses lean manufacturing and process improvement principles?

Lean manufacturing and process improvement have their roots in the manufacturing industry, but lean manufacturing principles can be used in any product or service industry. Other than manufacturing, process improvement is currently very popular in health care, service industries, IT and is even being used in some governments.

Is my company too small for lean manufacturing?

There is no company too small for lean manufacturing. Some of YMB Consulting’s customers only have 10 to 15 employees, while others are much larger corporations. The type of projects required by small companies can be sometimes different than the larger one, but each project or implementation has one common goal, reducing waste. Smaller companies often do not want to hire a full time continuous improvement leader, but can work with us on a series of smaller projects throughout the year to help them with their improvement efforts.

Can I use lean manufacturing tools even if my company does not build a repetitive product?

Yes! Lean manufacturing tools can be applied by any company that offers or makes a product or service, it does not matter if these are not repetitive. There are many differences between companies that build repetitive products and “Job Shops”; however, YMB Consulting has continuous improvement experience with both types of companies.

What is visual management?

Visual management uses lean manufacturing tools to visually show where problems exist so that they can be eliminated. Since lean manufacturing is focused on eliminating waste, making that waste visible is very important to ensure that improvements are focused on the problems causing the most pain. YMB Consulting can help your company implement visual management tools with the help of VisualFactory, but can also help you implement more traditional visual management tools. For more information on visual management, read this blog.

What is lean management?

Lean management is an approach to running a company that is focused on continuous improvement using lean manufacturing tools. In many cases this formal management system is incorporated in a company’s quality system and also incorporates the Demings Plan-Do-Check-Act cycle.

What is the Plan-Do-Check-Act cycle or Demings cycle?

Sometimes also referred to as the PDCA cycle, the plan-do-check-act cycle is a 4 step process that companies use to continuously improve products or processes. This management method was first introduced by W. Edwards Deming as part of the Deming Management Method. The plan do check act method can be used at all levels of the organization from strategic planning to the day to day activities of a front line production supervisor. The steps of this process are pretty self explanatory:

Plan: A plan is created for the improvement activity.
Do: The team assigned to the improvement activity executes the plan.
Check: The team checks their progress against the plan.
Act: The team takes corrective action to recover if they are not meeting the plan, or the plan is adjusted to reflect new reality.

What is a Kaizen?

Kaizen is a Japanese word that means continuous improvement, “Kai” means “Ongoing” or “Continuous” and zen means “good”, “Wisdom” or “Improvement”. In lean manufacturing the term is often used to conduct improvement events where employees are trained in a particular lean manufacturing technic and then use the tool in question to improve a targeted area, flow or process.


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