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The Basics of Lean Manufacturing: Principles and Terms to Understand.

In today's competitive global market, incorporating the principles of lean manufacturing is crucial for any business striving to maximize efficiency…

The Basics of Lean Manufacturing: Principles and Terms to Understand

25th May 2023

In today’s competitive global market, incorporating the principles of lean manufacturing is crucial for any business striving to maximize efficiency and reduce waste. When properly implemented, these time-tested approaches can lead to increased profitability and better product quality.

Not only that, but you’ll also experience higher customer satisfaction. With that said, the terms associated with lean manufacturing can be confusing to outsiders. Here, we’ll explain them. 

What is Lean Manufacturing?

Lean manufacturing is a systematic approach for identifying and eliminating waste in operations. Its goal is to continuously improve production efficiency and quality by focusing on customer value. As a consequence, lean manufacturing reduces overhead costs and wastes less time.

What are the 5 Principles of Lean Manufacturing?

Lean manufacturing follows 5 core principles: value, the value stream, flow, pull, and perfection. These principles are used to implement lean manufacturing and all of the benefits that follow.

1. Value

The first principle emphasizes that you must understand what the customer perceives as valuable in order to provide products or services that meet their expectations. These valuable goods are created by the manufacturer, who does what they can to eliminate costs and waste.

2. The Value Stream

A value stream consists of all the activities, from raw materials to finished products, needed for creating customer value. It’s essential to identify and optimize every step. This is because modern manufacturing streams are pretty complex and require significant effort to complete.

3. Flow

This principle focuses on improving processes so that value-added steps flow smoothly without delays or interruptions. The whole process involves eliminating functional barriers to effectively improve lead times. If disruptions occur, then the manufacturer will incur unnecessary costs.

4. Pull

Instead of pushing products through manufacturing based on forecasts, the pull principle relies on actual demand from customers to drive production. Since product forecasts are often unreliable, the pull system is optimal, as it relies on flexibility, efficiency, and communication. 

5. Perfection

Organizations will strive for perfection using a process called Kaizen, which will be explained in the next section. The connection between Gemba walk and Kaizen principles shows that to reach perfection, you need to continuously assess and fix your manufacturing process.

What Lean Manufacturing Terms Should You Know?

Lean manufacturing terms can be confusing at first glance. That’s because most of the more famous ones are in Japanese, as car manufacturer Toyota technically invented the methodology. 

Here are 10 major lean manufacturing terms you should be aware of:

  • Gemba (The Real Place): This concept highlights the importance of spending time on the plant floor. This practice gives you a better understanding of your operations.
  • Heijunka (Level Scheduling): An approach that aims at levelling out production workload throughout operations, reducing fluctuations, and promoting efficiency.
  • Hoshin Kanri (Policy Deployment): A strategic planning process ensuring proper alignment between operational goals, objectives, and resources available.
  • Jidoka (Automation): Incorporating technology into processes or equipment to detect problems automatically improves quality and reduces labour time input throughout tasks.
  • Just-In-Time (JIT): Focuses on production based on customer demand instead of pushing products down the line based on projected demand, which is often wasteful.
  • Kaizen (Continuous Improvement): A strategy that ensures employees work together to achieve consistent, incremental improvements in their manufacturing processes.
  • Kanban (Pull System): The method of regulating the flow of goods in and outside of the factory. This flow is typically based on automatic replenishment through signal cards.
  • Muda (Waste): Anything that’s “Muda” is useless or doesn’t add value to the process. The elimination of waste is often a core reason why lean manufacturing is implemented.
  • Poka-Yoke (Error Proofing): Simple devices or mechanisms designed to prevent mistakes before they happen in order to improve quality and reduce overall waste.
  • Takt Time (Manufacturing Pace): Takt time is the ideal rate at which you need to produce a product in order to meet customer demand within available working hours.

It’s important to note that the lean manufacturing process also uses terms that are utilized in other businesses. For example, bottleneck analysis, KPIs, overall equipment effectiveness, PDCA, root cause analysis, and SMED are also passed around in lean manufacturing. 

In Conclusion…

Now that you have a grasp on the fundamentals of lean manufacturing, it’s time to put these principles and terms into practice within your organization. Whether you’re new to lean methodologies or looking to refine your current processes, embracing these insights can undoubtedly propel your business toward heightened efficiency and success. 

So take the leap, invest in continuous improvement, and watch as your manufacturing company reaps the tangible benefits that come with adopting lean manufacturing practices.

Categories: Articles, Tech

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