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Lean Manufacturing

By HWA | Publish On: April 29, 2011 | Posted In:

The concept of Lean Manufacturing was first seen Japan particularly in Toyota Production System. The concepts, tools and techniques had gone through a lot of testing before they were accepted.

Lean Manufacturing intends to revolutionize the manufacturing process. This was not a fine tuning that had been done on the existing manufacturing system. The manufacturing techniques are conceptually different from the traditional process. For example the traditional manufacturing work is based on inventory. But Lean Manufacturing questions the role of inventory and defines it as a waste and reflects the imperfections that the system has. This example shows the conceptual difference between the traditional manufacturing system and lean manufacturing system.

The principle on which the lean manufacturing system depends and operates is simple. The customer does not pay for the flaws or errors in the production, but only pays for the value that the product or the service offers to them. The impact on this thinking is huge on the manufacturing process. It changed the way people looked at the manufacturing process. It made people define value of the product from customers’ point of view, not from the internal manufacturing point of view.

Lean Manufacturing or Lean Production is a system and culture which aims at maximizing the output of manufacturing process with minimal or optimum inputs with the help of lean techniques and tools. It aims at reducing work in progress, downtime, buildup of excess raw materials, finished goods and all waste.

Under lean manufacturing production line, customer orders determine the production schedule thus it is named as pull system. In order for this system to be successful workers must be multi skilled, quality output shall be produced at each step in the process, standardized tasks and processes and fairly predictable demand with strong relationships with customers and suppliers.

These characteristics are very important and have been present in many Japanese manufacturing companies that excel in lean production systems and value adding production systems. Learning and understanding how the many lean concepts will help the operations/process engineer and lean team implement and structure lean initiatives and production tasks that will deliver increases in output with the same or minimal inputs into their process.


Waste in any organization or process is referred to the misuse of resources, production not fit for sale or resources that tie up cash and inventory while providing little or no benefit to the organization or its consumers. These resources could be better used elsewhere in the organization invested in value creating operations or opportunities.

The aim of lean manufacturing should be about eliminating waste from their systems and operations and extracting as much outputs as they can from minimal inputs.

Lean Manufacturing points out to seven types of wastes which include:

  • Waiting: Time in which people or goods are idle and not adding value to the finished good or service. This could be due to bottlenecks or production downtime upstream from a necessary sub process.
  • Transport: Unnecessary movement of materials or goods, this includes work in progress from one part of the plant to another.
  • Re-work: this is rectifying or re-processing faulty goods and services.
  • Over-production: Producing finished goods in excess of customer needs and demands.
  • Motion or movement: refers to the unnecessary movement or extra steps in a process due to inefficient plant layouts and other barriers to continuous work flow.
  • Inventory: Inventory refers to the build up of raw materials, work in progress goods, finished goods that are not yet required by the downstream process or customer.
  • Rejects: refer to the goods and services that not saleable. The ultimate goal is to have a minimal waste within their operations.

SMART Goals:

A goal to be achieved must be

  • Specific: Be clearly set out in a specific manner, referring to actual facts and concrete figures.
  • Measurable: the results or goals must be able to be measured in units or in any other exact way.
  • Attainable: the goal must be attainable and achievable, it must not be something out of reach or too ambitious. If the goal is too ambitious and never achieved, employee morale may suffer.
  • Realistic: the goal must be realistic in what it sets out to achieve with the available resources and time frame.
  • Time based: the goal must have a due date by which it should be achieved. The time line or due date for the goal must also be realistic and achievable.

For more details you can visit our website at and

This article is in continuation with our previous articles on Operations Management which include Bills of Materials, Control Charts, Decision Tree, Deterministic Inventory Model andDemand Chase

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