How to Implement Lean Manufacturing: The Best Practices

Lean manufacturing, also known as just-in-time production, just-in-time manufacturing and lean production, is a method of production whose origins date back to 1930. It was during this year that renowned Japanese car makers Toyota employed the famous Toyota Production System (TPS) operating model.

The model went on to become famous as “The Toyota Way” and in the late 1980s, John Krafcik coined the term ‘lean’, which was defined by Daniel Jones and James Womack in 1996.

Lean manufacturing process
photo credit:
Oğuzhan Karaca / Pexels

According to Jones’ and Womack’s definition, lean manufacturing consists of the five following principles:

  • Precise value specification by specific product
  • Identification of each product’s value stream
  • Allowing customer to pull value from the producer
  • Making uninterrupted value flows
  • Pursuing perfection

Simply put, this manufacturing method is one of the most tried and tested methods for increasing efficiency. Lean manufacturing is also known to reduce wastage and inventory costs, and increase profit and productivity. But how can your business implement lean manufacturing? The answer lies in adopting practices that reflect the five principles that we just shared with you.

Lean manufacturing team
photo credit: ThisisEngineering RAEng / Unsplash

5 Best Practices for Implementing Lean Manufacturing

Read on to know what those practices are.

1. Value identification

The most fundamental practice for implementing lean manufacturing is to identify the work value of the team. Doing this will help you to understand the activities that add value and the ones that are unproductive.

To identify value correctly, the meaning of value should be clear to the entire team. The simplest definition of value is that it’s everything for which your customer pays you. However, not all work teams produce direct value for customers – some are about value enhancement as well.

This practice also involves identifying and categorizing wasteful activities(necessary and pure). Some wasteful activities are necessary, as they provide support to value-adding activities. However, some are purely wasteful, and only do damage to productivity. Pure waste activities should be eliminated.

2. Mapping value stream

This practice follows closely on the heels of the previous practice, and it involves visualizing the team-produced value ‘s movement from the business to the customer. Kanban boards are used to map and visualize the value streams flowing from the work teams to the customers.

The first Kanban was a part of the TPS, and it features the states of an assignment – Requested, In progress, and Done. Modern Kanban boards are typically more elaborate and break down individual states into steps. For example, the ‘Requested’ state can be broken down into ‘Received orders’ and ‘Orders ready to ship’.

If you’ve never mapped your value stream before, break the states down into steps that add value. Doing this will eliminate waste activities and lead to the creation of an authentic lean process. As processes evolve, how you map your value stream will also have to change.

ERP increases efficiency

3. Creating flow

Creating flow is vital in lean manufacturing, and it involves creating a value flow that ensures smooth delivery right from the very first second that an order is received to the moment it is delivered.

Creating smooth flows is complex, as bottlenecks in the process may emerge. That’s why it’s important to monitor the progress of tasks as the workflow moves along. When a particular task gets stuck, you can look deeper into it to have a clearer understanding of why the bottleneck happens.

Completely eliminating bottlenecks isn’t possible sometimes. However, what you can do is to ensure that existing bottlenecks don’t get any worse due to clogging.

4. Establishing pull

Establishing a pull system is based on a simple idea – starting fresh work only after the demand for it is there. The work team should also have spare capacity to cater to the demand. The point of this practice is to avoid overproduction and produce only the value that your customers need.

The tasks to be processed should be in a queue in terms of their priorities. This allows the highest priority tasks to be executed and processed first. Shorter cycle times should be the most important goal, which will result in faster completion of tasks within a time frame that’s predefined.

5. Improving constantly

This last practice is all about the mindset of the work team, as it’s about improving. Implementing lean manufacturing successfully is a complex process and it can’t happen overnight.

It’s All About Team Effort

It requires the work team to be conscious of what they’re doing so that they can learn from their past mistakes and improve on them in the present and future.