What Is Lean Manufacturing?

As a production and manufacturing company, certain factors lead to increased quality of work without ever having to compromise on the value of the product. After all, no customer will pay for commodities that are below the standards. Therefore, companies will put in place measures designed to fast-track the designing and distribution process so as customers can get value for their money. That is why companies like Toyota use the lean manufacturing technique. And for the most part, Toyota production system is credited with coming up with this technique.

But before going any further, just what is lean manufacturing? Simply put, it’s all about adding value to the process by minimizing waste. The waste in this context is anything that only ends up taking much of your time and money just to add no value to the finished product. As such it is essential to know these types of muda (the traditional Japanese name for waste in the manufacturing process) for better implementation of the technique.

Categories of muda

  • Overproduction- when the demand increases it is only natural for companies to produce more products to meet the customer’s needs. However, if the results of the production, mostly producing before the demand, causes storage costs that could have been avoided, that’s waste.
  • Over-processing – dwelling too much on a product so that you can meet the customer requirements. It might be due to inadequate tools or lack of simpler manufacturing processes
  • Transportation – do not move raw materials or finished products unnecessarily. Better yet, find transportation alternatives with better rates. Otherwise, you will be creating waste.
  • Motion – how often do you move equipment or do people move about without any significance in the manufacturing process?
  • Inventory – any products, work-in-process or finished goods that aren’t supporting any needs.
  • Defects – results to wastage of time inspecting and fixing production errors
  • Waiting – this waste emerges from in-between breaks during work-in-process just waiting for the next step.
  • Unused workforce- any time you do not value employees ideas, skills and creativity, that is another form of waste.

The importance of knowing these categories of lean manufacturing waste is to improve quality while reducing costs, time wastes and eliminating the non-value adding processes. Once identified, the waste can be removed using different tools including Jidoka, Poka-Yoke, Kanban, SMED, Kaizen, value stream mapping, continuous workflow, Takt Time and many others.

It is essential to produce quality goods in an optimized manufacturing process to save on cost. Through avoiding the above waste there is increased productivity, and the process’s goals can be met.