Have Manufacturing Questions? Call or text us now at 619-473-2149

Lean manufacturing is a powerful concept that can make all the difference for your bottom line. The goal of lean manufacturing is to maximize productivity and minimize waste — or anything that doesn’t add value to the end customer.

When properly implemented, lean manufacturing can help brands save time and money, increase the eco-friendliness of their processes and improve customer satisfaction.

Regardless of the types of products you sell, every instance of lean manufacturing is guided by five key principles, as originally outlined by the Lean Enterprise Institute. Here’s what you need to know about implementing them in your own processes.

  1. Identify Value

The first step to successfully implementing lean manufacturing is to identify value. However, what’s important to understand in lean manufacturing is that “value” is 100% linked to the customers and their needs

To successfully eliminate waste and deliver value, brands must consider what aspects of their products meet customer needs. This includes product features, but it also extends to elements like the price point and even the timeline for manufacturing and delivering finished products.

Defining, measuring and analyzing what customers want (using the Design For Six Sigma methodology or another similar process) is crucial for identifying what provides true value.

  1. Map the Value Stream

After you’ve identified the value that customers want or need, the next step is to map the value stream. Mapping the value stream requires your organization to essentially map or diagram every action that is involved in getting a finished product to your customers.

Naturally, this includes manufacturing-related tasks such as procurement of raw materials, product design, manufacturing processes and logistics. However, it also covers other tasks that play a role in getting the product to your customers, such as marketing, HR and customer service.

Mapping out the entire value stream helps you better identify which steps create value and which aspects of your products or your processes are actually wasteful. Mapping makes it easier to reevaluate the steps involved with this work so you can begin implementing needed adjustments.

This is also the stage when most organizations take steps to remove wasteful processes. Depending on the level of waste you uncover, you might need to dramatically reconfigure your operations — but removing wasteful activities from the value stream will deliver long-term gains for you and your customers.

  1. Create Flow

After you’ve taken action to eliminate waste from your company’s value stream, the next step is to create efficient flow with your new practices. This principle is designed to help you streamline the steps that deliver actual value to make them more efficient.

Manufacturing facilities create flow by organizing their work floors in a way where products can move through the entire manufacturing process without interruptions or delays. Creating flow accounts for how people, materials and equipment are positioned and used throughout these processes to identify (and resolve) potential bottlenecks.

Because the value stream extended beyond manufacturing, creating flow also requires coordination with other areas of the business to help maximize the efficiency of all processes involved in getting products to the customer.

  1. Establish Pull

By creating flow, your organization can then establish a pull (rather than push) system for manufacturing. Pull-based production begins when customer orders are received, which leads to the production of new items and the purchase of additional materials and supplies as needed.

This helps improve the amount of time it takes for manufactured products to get to the customer, while at the same time helping businesses avoid stockpiling excess materials or inventory. This also helps eliminate errors that can occur during push manufacturing when products spend a significant amount of time “in progress” rather than having manufacturing completed in a timely manner.

Because production is directly tied to demand in a pull system, you don’t have to worry about over-manufacturing or under-manufacturing. This lowers warehouse costs and helps your work become more agile and flexible.

  1. Seek Perfection

This final principle of lean manufacturing can sound intimidating at first. But the truth is that your work isn’t done after the first time you’ve mapped the value stream and implemented steps to create flow and push.

Seeking perfection requires a mindset shift for your entire organization — where everyone in every department is involved in trying to implement lean manufacturing and make continual improvements. For lean specifically, this usually entails mapping the value stream multiple times to drive value.

This step is derived from the Japanese business philosophy of Kaizen, in which all employees seek to continuously improve their operations. Many of these changes happen in small, incremental steps, but over time can lead to lasting organizational change. From streamlining manufacturing to taking steps to help employees become more engaged and fulfilled, seeking continual improvement should become a central tenet of your organization.

By following these essential principles to guide your lean manufacturing processes, you can put yourself on course to achieve key goals such as improving quality control, eliminating waste and increasing customer satisfaction. With lean principles to guide your work, you can achieve these outcomes no matter what kind of products you make — and you’ll be able to build a culture of continual improvement that sets you up for long-term success.

Stay Up-to-Date with Our Newsletter!Join Our Community and Stay Informed with Our Newsletter.