What Is Lean

By Graphic Products Editorial Staff

lean manufacturing examples

To make a manufacturing process more efficient, a company needs to understand "lean".

To “go lean” means your workplace applies philosophy and practices from Lean Manufacturing. Lean is an industrial practice where manufacturing facilities focus on waste reduction to create more value for the customer. There are several different lean techniques, allowing each organization to fit lean into their distinct production process. Four common lean techniques are 5S, Kaizen, Kanban and TPM.

What is lean manufacturing's benefit to a company?

Lean manufacturing provides higher productivity, improved customer service, lower lead times, increased employee morale and a safer work environment. Each of these contributes to the most significant benefit of lean manufacturing, increased profits. These profits can be passed on to customers through lower prices to create an edge against competition.

What is 5S?

The 5S System is a Japanese organization method that stems from five Japanese words: Seiri, Seiton, Seiso, Seiketsu and Shitsuke. Translated to English, they are: Sort, Set in Order, Shine, Standardize and Sustain. These words represent a five-step process to reduce waste and increase productivity and efficiency. The first step, Sort, involves eliminating clutter and unnecessary items from the work space. Next, workers must Set in Order by ensuring that there is a place for everything and everything is in its place. The Shine step entails cleaning the work space and regularly maintaining this state. Standardizing should be done to make all work processes consistent so any worker can step in and perform a job if necessary. The final step, Sustain, involves maintaining and reinforcing the previous four steps.

What is Kaizen?

Kaizen is a business practice that focuses on making constant improvements. With Kaizen, there is always room for improvement and workers should constantly look to improve the workplace. This philosophy also emphasizes that each individual's ideas are important and all employees should be involved in the process to better the company. An organization that practices Kaizen welcomes, and never criticizes, suggestions for improvement at all levels. This creates an environment of mutual respect and open communication.

What is Kanban?

Kanban relies on visual signals to control inventory. A Kanban card is placed in a visible area and signals when inventory needs to be replenished. With this process, products are assembled only when there is demand from the consumer, which allows companies to reduce inventory and waste. The Kanban method is highly responsive to customers because products can be manufactured by responding to customer needs instead of trying to predict their future needs.