Lean Manufacturing

Lean Manufacturing is the act of continually advancing and optimizing the production flow in order to reduce waste and increase efficiency. Credited as having started in Japan, lean manufacturing or lean production techniques involve the elimination of waste and streamlining of processes.

Lean production in manufacturing places a high level of value on transparency in the supply chain in order to monitor, highlight and expose any potential problems in the production process. Through this continual monitoring and evaluating, the production managers and staff are able to create short feedback loops to help streamline processes and avoid potential future issues or bottlenecks in production.

A lean manufacturing system has the added benefits of eliminating undue effort while maximizing and improving on parts of the process delivering the best results. 5 principles of lean manufacturing include:

1. Identifying value

As a brand, you need to understand where the value in your product lies and more importantly, what value your customers identify and value. By understanding the aspects of your product offering that are of the highest value to your customer, you can focus your product, service or offering to promote and increase the direct value to your customer.

By understanding, concentrating on and highlighting this value, you can optimize your product offering and ensure your customers are presented with and understand the correct value of your product.

2. Understanding your value stream

The value of your product is often not in the end result, but also the stages of your product lifecycle from design through to disposal. In order to fully realise the value proposition of your product, lean manufacturing asks you to examine your supply chain and ensure you are continually eliminating wasted time, materials, processes and overheads from each stage.

Product lifecycle management software solutions can often help this principle by giving you an overview of your production line and processes and highlighting any bottlenecks or inefficient processes.

3. Implementing your flow

Once your flow is understood and the value stream known, it is important to remove any barriers between stages in the product lifecycle. Through lean manufacturing, the constant and unimpeded movement of a product through it’s life creates processes which require minimal involvement or decision making.

By removing any impediments, you can streamline your development, production, distribution, disposal and feedback cycles. This in turn helps to create a system with minimal disruptions to increase your supply chain value.

4. Using a Pull System

Many traditional manufacturing systems use a push methodology that focuses on creation of supply and trying to sell or force demand. Lean manufacturing looks to use a pull system that inverts this process by using demand and feedback loops before creating the product. This can be a difficult process to achieve as traditionally maintaining a healthy amount of stock can help improve delivery and supply methods.

In order to implement a pull system, feedback loops, communication channels and flexibility in your supply chain must be present. By using this pull system of manufacturing, you can reduce dead stock, overstocking and warehousing costs and also reduce wastage in your disposal and production stages.

5. Continuing to improve and strive for perfection

The final principle and overarching idea of lean manufacturing involves continual review and feedback from all of your process and stages. Lean manufacturing is the search for perfection through continual improvements and review.

Using these principles, manufacturers adopting this type of production are able to see great economic, social and environmental improvements.

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