Lean thinking is used by companies who are looking to improve efficiency and eliminate wastes. The ultimate goal for Lean manufacturing is to create quality products that satisfy the customer and meet demand with as little resources as necessary. Lean manufacturing came to popularity in the 1990s and derived most of its principles and philosophies from the Toyota Production System, a system developed by the automobile company in Japan.
Lean manufacturing is a set of tactics and methods working to improve processes and reduce waste. It works to involve employees from all levels, fueling collaboration between supervisors, assembly operators, and frontline workers with practices like Gemba walks and quality control circles. Lean is focused on continuous improvement (Kaizen) and this way of thinking believes small incremental changes over time is more effective than major changes every now and then.
There are seven common wastes of manufacturing as identified by Lean: defects, overproduction, waiting, transport, inventory, over-processing, and motion. All of these wastes fall under the umbrella of Muda, a Japanese term meaning uselessness or wastefulness and key concept of the Toyota Production System. The other two major wastes in Lean manufacturing are Mura, or uneven production, and Muri, or overburdened equipment/workers.
An important component of Lean manufacturing is the just-in-time method of production. JIT production is a pull system, meaning that production only happens when an order is placed by a customer. This system allows facilities to create a production line that optimizes workflow efficiently. JIT directly impacts specific types of waste and using Lean tools like takt time or Kanban cards can help regulate the system and ensure operations are running smoothly.
There are a number of goals that can be reached with a Lean manufacturing system. Not only is waste reduced and cost is saved, but you may also find processes become more streamlined, productivity is improved, employees are more satisfied with their job, and the customer is pleased with the company.
- What is Muda?
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- What is Lean manufacturing?
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- When was Lean manufacturing invented?
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