The lean approach has taken over the manufacturing world. Each aspect of production has benefited by extracting more from the limited resources available. Consequently, lean practices have proven extremely beneficial to the overall economy.

Going Lean has taught manufacturers to minimise waste without compromising productivity or quality by systematically removing processes that do not add value. In lean manufacturing, ‘value’ is any process or action that the customer would be willing to pay for.

Let’s look at the principles and sources of waste that govern the dynamics of lean manufacturing.

The Lean Principles

The entire system of lean manufacturing can be divided into many steps, ranging from adaptation to implementation.

The following principles govern lean manufacturing:

Value Determination

The first basic tenet of lean manufacturing is determining what the customer will pay for. Discovering what your customers’ value can be difficult and requires one on one meetings, discussions, and surveys of key-customers. Any production process not adding value from the customer’s perspective must be deemed useless.

Visualise the Value Stream

A value stream is an entire cycle a product goes through while getting value added. This stream also includes the disposal of the product. It requires one to look at all the steps involved in the manufacturing of a product from the cradle to the grave.

Smooth Flow

After eliminating unnecessary processes, the third step requires taking care of the flow of the entire operation. You must deal with any interruptions or delays that might occur during the manufacturing to disposal process. Some activities in ensuring smooth flow include step-by-step process documentation, employee cross-training, and leveling of workload.

Pull Mechanism

Pull mechanism helps minimise inventory and work in process by limiting the creation of surplus material. This mechanism rejects the old concepts of sequential engineering where parts move to the next workstation without any clear-cut requirements. This is where Vendor Managed Inventory or Just in Time programs can help reduce inventory and work in process freeing-up lots of cash flow.

Pursuit of Perfection

The pursuit of perfection is the essential principle of lean manufacturing. It revolves around the idea of adopting lean practices as an organisational culture. Each employee of the organisation must contribute to making all the processes run smoothly and efficiently.

Waste in Lean Manufacturing

The principles of lean production systemically eliminate waste from the value-added process. A wholly lean system can only be realised by the elimination of these wastes:

  • Time delays
  • Material wastage
  • Wrong placement or allocation of staff
  • Unchecked defects in the product
  • Any process that is not adding value required by the customer
  • Excessive production
  • Over-flooded inventory and deadstock
  • Hindered movement of a workpiece from one station to another
  • The primary benefit in adopting lean manufacturing is to eliminate the wastes as mentioned above. The real potential of efficient production is achieved by addressing these wastes.

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