Lean Manufacturing

Explore how implementing lean manufacturing practices can optimize your production processes and drive efficiency. Discover the power of lean manufacturing.

What is lean manufacturing? Why is it important?


Lean manufacturing is a methodology that focuses on minimizing waste within manufacturing systems while simultaneously maximizing productivity. Also known as lean production or lean, is based on several specific principles, including Kaizen, or continuous improvement. Some of the benefits of lean manufacturing can include reduced lead times, reduced operating costs, and improved product quality.

What is lean manufacturing software? Why use lean software?

Lean manufacturing software takes the core principles of lean and digitizes them into solutions that leverage the IT/OT data from a factory, then enables analytics and insights into the most pressing issues. It's able to distinguish bottlenecks and send detailed reports to manufacturing leaders so they have the most up-to-date production data to streamline operations. With lean software, manufacturers can establish baseline measurements, identify improvements, and analyze results with agility.

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Five principles of lean manufacturing

The principles of lean manufacturing represent a powerful framework that can revolutionize the way businesses operate, leading to increased productivity, reduced waste, and improved overall performance. By implementing these principles, businesses can unlock new levels of success and competitiveness in today's fast-paced market.

Identify value

Manufacturers must identify what their customers identify as valuable to continuously optimize production toward those criteria.

Map the value stream

Having identified value, manufacturers can evaluate processes to determine which elements add value and which steps are wasteful.

Create flow

Manufacturers should ensure that products move smoothly between process steps without bottlenecking or intermediate inventory.

Establish pull system

Inventory is considered one of the biggest wastes in any production system. Establishing a pull system where orders are produced as demand is generated, rather than producing stock in anticipation, can increase efficiency.

Continuously improve and perfect

Lean production manufacturing means continuously improving processes to increase efficiency further and reduce waste.

Benefits of lean production planning

Reduce operational costs

Lean manufacturing principles enable companies to make more efficient use of labor and lower cost of quality, which lowers expense associated with existing demand.

Lean manufacturing principles enable companies to make more efficient use of labor and lower cost of quality, which lowers expense associated with existing demand.

Increased throughput

Once you have measured your cycle time and throughput, you can use lean manufacturing techniques to improve them. Eliminating waste by decreasing unplanned downtime, overproduction, defects, and rework can reduce the cycle time and increase the throughput by freeing up resources and capacity.

Once you have measured your cycle time and throughput, you can use lean manufacturing techniques to improve them. Eliminating waste by decreasing unplanned downtime, overproduction, defects, and rework can reduce the cycle time and increase the throughput by freeing up resources and capacity.

Reduced scrap and rework

Lean manufacturers can decrease scrap and rework in their factories by optimizing how they assess lean manufacturing processes, communicate engineering and manufacturing changes, and how they document product data throughout the product lifecycle.

Lean manufacturers can decrease scrap and rework in their factories by optimizing how they assess lean manufacturing processes, communicate engineering and manufacturing changes, and how they document product data throughout the product lifecycle.

Improved quality

Lean manufacturing focus on reducing waste can also help improve product quality over time. The lean production method offers a set of tools and techniques for identifying waste, including forms of waste like manufacturing errors or product defects.

Lean manufacturing focus on reducing waste can also help improve product quality over time. The lean production method offers a set of tools and techniques for identifying waste, including forms of waste like manufacturing errors or product defects.

Increased workforce productivity

More efficiency means higher productivity and better allocation of frontline workers. Employees satisfied in their roles are more likely to do good work and better contribute to the company's productivity.

More efficiency means higher productivity and better allocation of frontline workers. Employees satisfied in their roles are more likely to do good work and better contribute to the company's productivity.

Improved customer satisfaction

Happy customers translate to higher customer retention and a stronger brand reputation. With lean, manufacturers can enhance product quality, delivery speed, and overall customer satisfaction and experience.

Happy customers translate to higher customer retention and a stronger brand reputation. With lean, manufacturers can enhance product quality, delivery speed, and overall customer satisfaction and experience.

How can lean manufacturing be implemented?

Automation

Lean principles built into automation software for the factory floor promote root cause analysis. Finding the hidden bottlenecks and causes of lost time is no longer a manual process thanks to Industry 4.0 and smart manufacturing. This allows everyone from plant floor operators to plant management and manufacturing executives to collaborate and continually improve their overall factory performance.

Continuous improvement

Kaizen is a foundational principle for implementing lean and continuous improvement in manufacturing. Japanese for “change for better,” Kaizen is a long-term approach and manufacturing philosophy that focuses on eliminating waste, improving productivity, and sustained, targeted continual improvement. Kaizen implies that small, incremental changes routinely applied over time will result in significant improvement opportunities.

Supplier relationships

In a lean manufacturing environment, integration and coordination between suppliers and customers are essential to create an efficient value chain. To achieve this, you need to encourage the exchange of information and resources, as well as aligning goals and processes. By managing the relationship with your suppliers and customers in a lean environment, you can improve operational efficiency, product quality, customer satisfaction, and competitive advantage.

The Lean Manufacturer podcast

Join us for insightful discussions on the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) in lean manufacturing.

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Lean manufacturing case studies

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Evyap
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Brembo

NEI

NEI has embarked on a digital transformation journey with IoT to reduce expenses and maintain a strong competitive advantage.

Discover How

Evyap

Evyap uses their deep roots and strong commitment to lean principles to reduce waste and improve efficiency in manufacturing.

Learn More

Tofaş

With powerful tools, Tofaş can expand their digital transformation efforts, bringing about even more savings, sustainability, and quality control throughout the organization.

Learn More

Brembo

By improving OEE, Brembo reduces waste, quickly identifies and resolves issues, and improves efficiency across their production lines.

Learn More

Implementing lean manufacturing with ThingWorx Digital Performance Management

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Unlocking Manufacturing Excellence

Many manufacturing executives find themselves running continuous improvement programs reactively, often unaware of underlying issues until they manifest. The urgency of these constraints can be deceptive, clouding their focus on critical matters. Enter performance management, a strategic solution that not only detects problems but also prioritizes improvements based on their actual impact. Elevate your organization’s efficiency with informed decision-making.

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Related topics

Explore OEE

Overall Equipment Effectiveness (OEE)

Learn what OEE is in manufacturing and how boosting it can improve efficiency, reduce capital expenditure, and empower your workforce. See how you can use digital solutions to drive leaner operations.

Explore OEE
Explore CI

Continuous Improvement

Learn how CI initiatives—the ongoing efforts an organization takes to improve its processes over time—can take many forms in a manufacturing environment. Kaizen, lean, and Six Sigma are all examples of initiatives manufacturers can take to streamline their processes and boost efficiency.

Explore CI
Explore SMED

SMED

Learn about single-minute exchange of dies (SMED), a principle of lean manufacturing about doing more with less, while delivering maximum value to the customer. Its purpose is to reduce the time it takes to complete changeovers in equipment machinery. This encourages plant employees to perform as many steps as possible before the changeover occurs, have teams working in parallel, and create a standard and optimized process of working.

Explore SMED

Future of lean manufacturing

The ever-evolving landscape of manufacturing, operational efficiency, and sustainability have become more important than ever. With an increase in competition and customer expectations, manufacturers are looking to squeeze every ounce of efficiency from their operations. As we look to the future, the trajectory of manufacturing seems firmly anchored in lean principles. The synergy between lean manufacturing and emerging technologies, positions lean practices as the blueprint for the future.

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Frequently asked questions

 

What is the history of lean manufacturing?

Lean manufacturing emerged in post-WWII Japan, notably through Toyota's Toyota Production System (TPS). Taiichi Ohno and Shigeo Shingo pioneered its principles, aiming to eliminate waste, optimize efficiency, and enhance quality. TPS emphasized continuous improvement, just-in-time production, and respect for people. The oil crisis of the 1970s spurred interest in lean abroad, with companies like General Motors adopting its practices. The 1990s saw widespread adoption in industries beyond manufacturing, including healthcare and services. Lean's impact continues to shape modern production, focusing on customer value, waste reduction, and employee empowerment.

What is waste?

In lean manufacturing, “waste” is commonly defined as any action that does not add value to the customer. Essentially, waste is any unnecessary step in a manufacturing process that does not benefit the customer, therefore, the customer does not want to pay for it. Lean manufacturing is centered around eliminating waste from a manufacturing process. When you remove these types of waste, you are left with only the steps that are required to deliver a satisfactory, now high-valued, product to the customer.

What are the eight wastes of lean manufacturing?

  • Defects: Products or services that do not meet quality standards.
  • Overproduction: Making more than is needed or before it's needed, leading to excess inventory.
  • Waiting: Idle time for workers, machines, or materials, delaying the production process.
  • Non-utilized talent: Not effectively using the skills and knowledge of employees.
  • Transportation: Unnecessary movement of materials or products between processes, increasing costs and time.
  • Inventory: Excess raw materials, work in progress, or finished goods, tying up capital and space.
  • Motion: Unnecessary movement of people or equipment within the production process.
  • Extra processing: Adding unnecessary steps or features that don't add value to the final product or service.
  • Read the blog on wastes of lean manufacturing to learn more.

What are the lean manufacturing techniques?

Lean manufacturing encompasses various techniques aimed at reducing waste and improving efficiency in production processes. These techniques, among others, are used in combination to create a lean manufacturing system that focuses on maximizing value while minimizing waste throughout the production process.

Single-minute exchange of dies (SMED)

SMED is a lean manufacturing technique aimed at reducing the time it takes to complete equipment changeovers or setups between different production runs. The goal of SMED is to minimize the time spent on these changeovers to "single-digit" or "single-minute" durations, typically aiming for less than 10 minutes.

Value stream mapping

Analyzing and visualizing the entire production process to identify areas of waste and opportunities for improvement.

Five S’s

A system for organizing the workplace to improve efficiency and safety through the principles of Sort, Set in Order, Shine, Standardize, and Sustain.

Kaizen

Continuous improvement involving all employees in identifying and implementing small, incremental changes to processes to improve efficiency and quality.

Kanban (pull systems)

Using visual signals or cards to control the flow of materials and information through the production process, ensuring a smooth and efficient workflow.

Just-in-time (JIT)

Producing only what is needed, when it is needed, to minimize inventory levels and reduce waste from overproduction and excess inventory.

Poka-yoke (error-proofing)

Implementing error-proofing techniques to prevent defects and errors from occurring during production.

Total productive maintenance

A holistic approach to equipment maintenance involving all employees to maximize equipment effectiveness, minimize downtime, and reduce defects.

Single-piece flow

Single-piece flow is a fundamental principle of lean manufacturing and is often used in conjunction with other lean tools and techniques, such as kanban, standardized work, and cellular manufacturing, to create efficient and responsive production systems.

What is the difference between lean and Six Sigma?

Lean and Six Sigma are both methodologies aimed at improving efficiency and quality in manufacturing and business processes.

Lean focuses on eliminating waste and optimizing flow throughout the entire value stream, emphasizing concepts such as continuous improvement and just-in-time production. It aims to maximize value for the customer while minimizing waste, lead time, and cost.

Six Sigma is a data-driven approach focused on reducing variation and defects in processes to achieve near-perfect quality levels. It emphasizes statistical analysis and problem-solving methodologies.

While both lean and Six Sigma share the goal of improving efficiency and quality, lean tends to focus more on overall process improvement and flow, while Six Sigma emphasizes statistical analysis and defect reduction. However, they are often used together synergistically, with lean providing the framework for process improvement and Six Sigma providing the tools for statistical analysis and problem-solving.

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