Understanding Key Lean Manufacturing Concepts

Lean Manufacturing Concepts to Implement

Implementing the lean methodologies in your facility is an important decision. Whether you’re getting to ready a lean initiative or you are just weighing the benefits of the strategies it is a good idea to make sure you understand all of the lean manufacturing concepts. The fact that lean has well established concepts in place is one of its biggest benefits since they have been proven effective in real world situations for many years.

Take some time to go through and familiarize yourself with the following lean manufacturing concepts and how they will be implemented in your facility. While every workplace is unique, these concepts will remain the same no matter where you go, which makes this information very valuable.

Elimination of Waste

The first and most significant concept for lean manufacturing is that of waste elimination. When broken down, all the other concepts and principles that make up lean manufacturing will lead to this one primary goal. Eliminating as much waste as possible from any process will help ensure that things are completed efficiently so that a business can improve overall profitability.

There are, of course, many types of waste that occur within any manufacturing facility. Any type of waste elimination can help to improve the facility as a whole. The ongoing waste elimination efforts are all key lean manufacturing concepts.

Five Step Thought Process

Work FlowOne of the ways that lean improvements are planned and implemented is through the use of a five step thought process. This process is not just used to plan and implement a single idea, but to encourage ongoing improvement throughout the facility. As you will quickly see, this key concept of lean helps you to be constantly making improvements to your workflow.

  • Identify Value – The first concept is identifying value. It is important to remember that value must be in the eyes of the customer. Customers will not pay for something that they do not want or need so evaluating value through their point of view will be much more accurate.
  • Map the Value Stream – Next step is to map out the value stream. This will allow you to pinpoint where value is added to the process and where it is not. To the extent possible, eliminating any areas where value is not added is essential.
  • Create Flow – Take all the value adding steps and bring them as close to each other possible. This means both physically close together and logically. Allowing a product to flow through production with as little downtime as possible is a great way to eliminate waste.
  • Establish Pull – The lean concept of pull effectively means that the supply of products should be triggered based on the demand from customers. This can help you to eliminate the need for excessive inventory, which can result in loss of profits.
  • Seek Perfection – Once a new value is added to the process it is time to look to see where improvements can be made. Always attempt to find ways to add more value and/or reduce waste in any process. Once an area of improvement is identified it is time to go back to the first step of the cycle.

It is easy to see how this cycle of improvement can lead to long term benefits for any facility.

Leveled Production

To the extent it is possible; it should be the goal of any lean facility to have the same amount of work load every day. By taking into account both the forecast of future orders and the history of those orders a facility is able to more accurately predict workload. This can help with planning, staffing, materials ordering and much more.

When working properly, leveled production can help to reduce or eliminate overtime and other costly expenses related to the normal ebb and flow of manufacturing orders. When attempting to implement leveled production, it is important to also consider just in time production.

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Just in Time Production

JITJust in time production, or JIT, is an important lean manufacturing concept that can dramatically alter the way production is done in a facility. The idea is that a facility should be building what is required only when it is actually required. In addition, the quantity made should be limited to only what is needed.

This concept helps to eliminate wasted effort as well as wasted materials when things are made and not needed. In addition, by only producing that which is already needed by customers you are at less risk of having excess inventory.

Respect for Humanity

One lean concept that is often overlooked when implemented is the respect for the humanity of the employees in the facility. This is a newer addition to the lean methodologies, but it has been proven to be extremely important.

Unlike machines, the people who work in a facility need things beyond just simple direction. Factoring this into an overall lean strategy can help your employees to be happier while at work, which results in increased productivity. While every employee is unique and will require a different combination of approaches, the following concepts should be used whenever attempting to improve employee efficiency:

  • Respect – Employees who feel that they are respected by their employer tend to work harder and smarter. They also remain with the company for longer periods of time, which eliminates the waste of having to onboard new team members. Finding what makes employees feel respected is a key lean concept.
  • Sense of Worth – Employees must also feel that they are valued to the company. This can overlap with respect, but it is a separate issue. Making sure that every employee knows how they directly contribute to the success of the organization can make an important difference in how they perform.
  • Growth Opportunities – Many employees want to be able to move up and grow in their careers. Letting employees know how they can prepare themselves for promotions is essential. Remember, however, that growth does not always have to be directly upward. Giving people the opportunity to move to different areas of the company, even as a lateral move, can be very rewarding.
  • Work/Life Balance – This ‘buzz word’ is actually extremely important for encouraging productive employees. The concept revolves around the fact that employees should be encouraged to balance their work life with their home life. This may mean reducing overtime or allowing flexible schedules.
  • Compensation – The compensation your employees receive should be reasonable based on their position. While more money does not directly translate into improved work, underpaid employees are far more likely to leave the company, which causes a lot of waste.

There are many other lean manufacturing concepts that can apply directly to how you work with the employees at the facility. Understanding that the employees are key to running an efficient facility, however, will get your thinking on the right track.

Never Ending Quest for Perfection

In the end, the lean manufacturing concepts are all steps that need to be taken on your never ending quest for perfection in the workplace. While no lean expert would believe that 100% of all waste can be eliminated from a facility, it is important to work hard toward that goal. Over time it will allow you to dramatically improve productivity and result in a much more efficient and profitable workplace.

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