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Using lean tools to improve your company

Lean manufacturing is a practice in production environments that considers anything not directly related to producing a sound product as wasteful and a target of elimination. As customers become more frugal and knowledgeable about the products and services they consume, manufacturers have to work "leaner" to continue providing quality services and products and still maintain a sound financial bottom line. Lean Manufacturing is a generic philosophy derived from the way Toyota, has continued to provide a technologically advanced product while still meeting the financial demands of consumers and their company.

Lean manufacturing is based on the theme of efficient flow and decreasing waste through empirically tested methods to decide what matters rather than accepting existing methods. Companies that have implemented lean methodologies have been able to see a decrease in product defects but they see a large increase in company profits due to increased efficiency. With lean you are able to organize the company, making it a smooth flowing process for everyone and this will aid in preventing defects from occurring.

For many, the tools that are used in combination to produce a "Lean" work environment consist of identification and elimination of waste, and as waste is eliminated, production times and costs are reduced, but quality remains. Some of those tools are Value Stream Mapping, Five S, Kanban and poka-yoka. , lean tools are processes and strategies used to identify issues in the production of goods or services, and resolve those issues in a way that increases the efficiency of the operation. A wide range of tools are used to evaluate and respond in a manner that helps minimize waste and clear the way for earning greater profits. Businesses of all sizes can adapt these basic tools to any situation.

Lean is focused on getting the right items in the right place within the right amount of time to achieve a perfect work flow. It will minimize waste and be flexible to change as needed. These concepts of change and flexibility are a required culture that allows the leveling of production, using specific tools to accomplish the processes. All these concepts need to be understood, appreciated and embraced by employees and management in order to be valuable to the company. The acceptance of the culture and management of Lean is even more important than the actual tools or methods.

Lean aims to simplify work enough to understand, do and manage. There have been some recent attempts to link Lean Manufacturing with TPS or Six sigma. The difference between these approaches is not the goal itself but how each process achieves the goal.

Lean focuses on improving the flow of work and thereby steadily eliminating variables in manufacturing, exposing problems that already existed and thus waste is naturally reduced. The advantage for Lean is that it takes a system wide perspective rather than focusing only on waste to increase productivity. The combination of both Six sigma and Lean has been proven successful, however it is not easy to integrate any of these systems because the approaches to each method differ considerable.

All three methods have loosely connected principles whose goals are to reduce costs and eliminate waste. These principles include things such as: Pull processing, Perfect first-time quality, Waste minimization, Continuous improvement, Flexibility, Building and maintaining a long term relationship with suppliers, Autonomation, Load leveling and Production flow and Visual control. The range of lean tools is extremely broad, allowing for different combinations of strategies to be employed in order to achieve the desired effect. Research the different lean tools that will work for your organization and stay committed to them to have them become a success.

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