Lean manufacturing comes with an array of acronyms that may look like alphabet soup to any outsider. They seem to be letters joined with no rhyme or for no apparent reason. These are the common Lean manufacturing terms that are worth learning and remembering.


Stands for Just-in-Time system. It is a manufacturing approach that dwells on receipt of materials when and only when they are needed. An optimal material flow is created; meaning that at any given time, there are never too few or too many parts for the completion of a process.


These are the steps to solving problems in a structured manner. The abbreviation denotes the stages: Define, Measure, Analyze, Improve, and Control.

Cycle Time

This is the time required to take an activity from start to finish. The objective of many manufacturers is to reduce the time taken and make it a process that can be repeated over a number of times.

Lead Time

Lead time is the total amount of time taken for an order to get processed and make its way to a customer. It encompasses all processing, production time, shipping and any other procedures that happen before a requested order is delivered successfully.

If a part is said to have a 100-day lead time, the earliest time in which it can be delivered to a customer is 100 days.

Key Performance Indicator (KPI)

KPIs are used to measure the success of a system or a business. Performance measurement is done on the most important things that have to be tracked.

RCA (Root Cause Analysis)

A method that solves problems by determining the root cause of an issue. The development team is able to comprehend the exact problem in the process and is able to correct it and do more than repair it.

PFEP (Plan for Every Part)

Describes and preserves information about every part that goes into a manufacturing process. This information includes; where a part is sourced from, the way it is purchased, how it is received, the dimensions and weight, and the packaging.

SMED (Single Minute Exchange of Die)

It is a manufacturing waste reduction method. SMED aims at contemporizing transitions to improve on time taken to shift from running the present product to the subsequent product.


The term arises from the Toyota Production System which is defined as ‘a production system that is anchored on the total elimination of waste’.


This is a tool that controls inventory. It is also a fundamental tool for the success of the JIT system. With Kanban, the whole manufacturing process is transformed due to an efficient flow of materials.


A structured methodology for solving problems in the following procedure: Plan, Do, Check, Act.

Value Stream

All processes that change a raw material into a finished good. To increase the value of the final product, the process has to be altered accordingly.

WIP (Work In Progress)

These are all goods that have had some partial finish to them. They cannot be considered as raw materials but rather goods awaiting completion.