Lean Manufacturing Principles

Written by Elisabeth Forsythe
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For manufacturing companies that are looking to cut out unnecessary waste, Lean Implementation may sound like a good methodology to follow. But it may seem a little vague. The basic idea is that you should separate your company's processes into two categories: actions that add value to your products, and activities that do not, and are therefore a waste of time and money. But how can you accurately define value or waste? Studying Lean Manufacturing principles can help.

Lean Manufacturing principles were developed by the Japanese, starting with the Toyota Motor Corporation in the 1950s. The Japanese literally couldn't afford to have a lot of waste in their factories: land was so expensive that they couldn't house large inventories "just in case." So instead, they developed the Just in Time strategy, where they arranged to receive the parts they needed exactly when they needed them. It may have seemed a little precarious at the time, but it led to great success: their suppliers were forced to implement strict quality controls, since each part had to be free of defects, and the manufacturers saved money on inventory costs.

Another fundamental tenet of Lean Manufacturing is the idea of performing only processes that add value to the product. The Japanese achieved this by reviewing each process in their operations and asking the simple question, "Would someone pay for this?" Would a customer pay for a process that helps eliminate defects? Of course. Would they pay an employee to walk two minutes out of their way to transport a product to another location? Probably not.

Learn the Principles of Lean Manufacturing

It's estimated that in a typical factory, up to 60 percent of their operations add no value to the finished product. That means more than half the work day is a waste of time and money. By following Lean Manufacturing principles, many companies have increased both their productivity and customer satisfaction.


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