What Are the Principles and Concepts of Lean Manufacturing?
Defining Lean Manufacturing
If you want to know how to implement lean manufacturing you may be asking yourself firstly what is lean manufacturing, how do I define lean manufacturing and where does Lean Manufacturing come from?What are the principles and concepts of lean manufacturing?
To truly begin to understand lean you need to know how it has developed and the history of lean manufacturing. The answer depends on where you accept that it is "lean manufacturing", you could start with the first production lines of Mr.Ford producing the model T, although you could go back further to the Early 18th century in England when Muadsley and Marc Brunel (the father of Isambard Kingdom Brunel) set up production lines to produce pulleys for the Royal Navy.
The real start of Lean however is with Toyota, this is where the Motion Studies of Gilbreth, the Time Studies of Taylor combined with Ford's production lines were really developed along with the quality focus of Deming, Shewhart, and Juran. What Toyota began to develop was the Toyota Production System (TPS).
Toyota driven by a vision to be better than the west with limited available resources developed what we now call Lean, it was "brought" to the west in the 1980s as companies here began to realize that they had to rethink what they were doing to be able to compete with the Japanese.
Principles of Lean Manufacturing
Lean Manufacturing Principles
The five lean manufacturing principles are;
- Specify Value - as seen by the Customer
- Identify and Create Value Streams
- Make the Value flow from raw material to Customer
- Pull Production not Push
- Strive for Perfection
It is these five principles that form the backbone of any lean definition, not just the constant removal of waste, the Lean Manufacturing definition must be more based on the creation of a value stream flow meeting the needs of the customer to prevent the creation of waste.
These 5 principles were first described within the book "The Machine that Changed the World" which was written around the MIT study of the success of Toyota as an automotive manufacturer.
Lean Manufacturing Principles Video
What is Lean Manufacturing?
What is lean manufacturing?, if you look through the Internet to discover a definition of lean you will find many different suggestions, some of a few sentences, others that run to many pages. Lean is a Philosophy for business success as well as a large collection of proven tools.
However, read some of these definitions, the reason I say to do so is because I am very disappointed with regard to how many of these are written. Most miss the main point of lean, they on the whole define lean as being a process of waste elimination, in some ways this is correct but it misses some of the major and most important parts of lean.
If you only focus on an internally focused drive to eliminate waste, a process generally of cost reduction and labour elimination to reduce costs and increase profits, you forget the first and most important part of lean; what is value to the customer? The selfish drive to reduce costs wrongly assumes value on the part of the customer and the organisation tends to become not lean but anorexic! They remove the ability to be able to react to customer changes, to adapt when there are supplier and internal problems. Because of this companies that "have done lean" quickly revert to the way they were before the improvements, bringing back old inefficient processes to cover over other issues and rehiring the labour that they removed, lean being put on the discard pile of management fads.
Lean is Customer First, what is value in the eyes of the customer? What features and services does the customer want? When do they want them and what price do they want to pay? Without this information how can you design your ideal system?
This value needs to be made to flow from raw materials through to the consumer, this value stream needs to produce product at the pull of the customer. This is Just In Time manufacturing (JIT), producing what the customer wants when they want it!
Once you have the customer defined value flowing at the pull of the customer you strive for perfection, improving everything that you can about the product and process.
This is done by all within your organisation, lean values respect for people, involves everyone in the company to help meet customer value.
If you follow this process you will not be going through a process of waste elimination and reduction but a more important process of waste prevention! So if you want to implement lean manufacturing you must not just focus internally to impress your board and make short term gains, but focus on the customer to make sustainable changes that will help your company flourish in today's world, not just struggle to survive.
The lean tools such as 5S or 5C, seven wastes, Single Minute Exchange of Die (SMED), Value Stream Mapping etc. are all important parts of lean manufacturing but they are not the end of the story, you need to get lean training or find a lean consultant if you want to truly learn how to implement lean manufacturing.
Lean Manufacturing Definition
My personal definition of lean manufacturing;
Satisfying your Customers consistently through producing what they want, when they want it, by pulling it from the value stream using the minimum amount of resources through respecting and involving all of your employees in a continual process of improvement.
The Pillars of Lean Manufacturing
The House of Lean
Toyota depict their production system as a house with supporting pillars.
Lean has to be built on a solid foundation; this foundation is provided by 5S and Total Productive Maintenance which provides you with reliable and predictable processes and standardized operations. Without this stable base you cannot build a strong company that will satisfy your customers.
The main pillars of Lean then are Jidoka (Built in Quality) and Just in Time (JIT), these are supported by the participation of all staff within the company. Every individual is respected and expected to perform as part of the team to continually improve every aspect of the business through Kiazen.
All of this is focused on satisfying the customers and making the business a success for everyone.
Agile Manufacturing Vs Lean Manufacturing
Because of some people's perceived view of lean manufacturing as being "mean", there is a feeling that lean puts companies in a situation where they sacrifice flexibility and speed for extra profits. However that is only so when Lean is approached as a means for cost reduction only.
If the company focuses on the customer value and the customer needs for the company to be quick in it's response to change, able to meet wild fluctuations in demand and product variety then the company will design a system that is Agile! Lean is fast, flexible, flow so it is by definition Agile!
Agile manufacturing in my mind is just an attempt by some consultancies/academics to differentiate themselves from lean to escape the reputation given by poor implementations.
Lean Manufacturing Vs Six Sigma
Many people are trying to decide wether to implement lean manufacturing or six sigma, why make the choice? Implement both as required!
Each has it's own strengths, hence the push towards "Lean Sigma" in some quarters.
Six Sigma's drive is one of variation reduction to drive waste reduction, it has many tools shared with lean as well as some more "advanced" statistical tools. Combined with Lean's ability to look at the "big picture" and establish standard operations the problem solving tools of six sigma combine to make a very effective combination.
If you can't prevent the waste in the first place through the applications of lean principles then you can use the six sigma tools to reduce the waste to the point where it barely exists!
Lean Manufacturing Strive for Perfection
The Lean Manufacturing Tools
Any definition of Lean Manufacturing would be incomplete without mentioning the various Lean Manufacturing Tools of which there are many;
Just in Time is one of the main foundations of Lean Manufacturing, the idea of making what the customer wants, where they want it, when they want it with the minimum delay and waste. JIT is aided the implementation of Heijunka, Jidoka, SMED and Kanban.
One of the main aims of the above is to eliminate the three areas of waste identified within Lean; Muda, Mura and Muri. Not just the seven wastes of lean manufacturing that many talk about when implementing lean.
To get a good overview of your operations you may wish to try creating a value stream map of your organization, using recognized value stream mapping symbols.
Any implementation of lean will require lean manufacturing training and you may wish to hire a lean manufacturing consultant.
Lean Manufacturing Definition Video
Lean Manufacturing at Toyota
Defining Lean Manufacturing Links
The following are useful links for business support and lean manufacturing resources.
http://www.ifm.eng.cam.ac.uk/; The Institute for Manufacturing is a significant part of the engineering department at Cambridge university in the UK. They are staffed by industry professionals rather than "academics". This is a very useful point of call for all things related to lean manufacturing.
http://www.thecqi.org/; The Chartered Quality Institute in the UK can also help with regard to lean manufacturing, quality is a significant part of any lean manufacturing implementation.
http://asq.org/; The American Society of Quality is the US equivalent and will be equally as able to help you with regard to your quest to implement Lean manufacturing.
http://www.nam.org/; The American National Association of Manufacturers has many resources that can help you with regard to lean manufacturing.
http://www.bis.gov.uk/; The UK Department for Business Innovation and Skills can help you with signposting training and even funding for lean manufacturing type training courses.
http://www.mas.bis.gov.uk/; The UK Manufacturing Advisory Service is a free or heavily subsidized service to help manufacturing businesses, their main focus is the introduction of lean manufacturing principles into your business.
http://www.businesslink.gov.uk/bdotg/action/home; The UK Business Link is another government sponsored service that can signpost you in the direction of lean manufacturing support and may also be able to provide funding for training or consultancy.
http://www.business.gov/; The US Business Link can provide Lean manufacturing advice and support in much the same way as the UK version.
http://www.smmt.co.uk; The Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders has many resources regarding Lean Manufacturing as the drive towards Lean Manufacturing has very much come from within the Automotive Industry.
http://www.aiag.org/scriptcontent/index.cfm; The Automotive Industry Action Group can provide support just as the SMMT can.
These Links will help you to find more information regarding what is lean manufacturing, lean manufacturing definition, lean manufacturing concepts and principles.
This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. Content is for informational or entertainment purposes only and does not substitute for personal counsel or professional advice in business, financial, legal, or technical matters.