Lean Manufacturing in the Aviation Industry

Lean manufacturing is a process which can be implemented in any industry to reduce waste and maximize productivity. According to lean manufacturing principles, anything that doesn’t add value to the final product is considered a waste of resources.

Lean manufacturing works in three ways – it reduces operating costs, lowers lead times and results in high quality products.

Aviation technician

Principles Used in Lean Manufacturing

Lean manufacturing’s core principles include the following:

1. Value

Value is determined by the customer and what they are willing to pay. Manufacturers who use this as a guidepost eliminate costs, manufacture items faster and bring it to market at prices customers are willing to pay. This results in higher profits.

2. Mapping value stream

Under this principle, manufacturers look at the materials and resource required to make a product or service. They are able to identify areas of waste and streamline manufacturing process. This principle accounts for the complete lifecycle of a product – from the raw material to the disposal stage. Aligning the supply chain plays a key role in this step.

3. Creating a flow

This involves removing barriers which impede seamless production. Once this is done on paper, it can promote a smooth flow of process and implemented without delay. For this to happen, all resources like raw materials, power supply and required manpower has to be in place.

4. Setting up a pull system

This step is used to start work only when there is a demand for the product or service. This is the opposite of common manufacturing processes where products are made and sent to market whether there is a need or not. This can result in too much or too little of a product leading to additional costs like warehousing. It also results in disrupted manufacturing and shipping schedules and finally, unhappy customers.

A pull system is better as it is used to make product based on demand and requires flexibility, efficiency, and good communication.

5. Manufacturing perfection

This principle is known as Kaizen – the search for perfection by setting up continuous process improvements. This is done by assessing the manufacturing process regularly to not only improve process but also to eliminate all waste.

How Lean Manufacturing is Being Implemented in The Aviation Sector

Lean manufacturing for the aviation industry works differently compared to the automotive and other sectors for the following reasons:

  1. The aviation and aerospace industry has to comply with a lot of government regulations.
  2. Parts that are used have different standards to maintain.

Manufacturing these myriad parts requires a lot of precision and takes a lot of time. There are hundreds of thousands of parts which have to be assembled to make a unit. Aviation can be compared to the healthcare sector in the sense that accuracy is necessary – close enough or approximation is not acceptable. To make matter worse, the government regulations don’t help much in making life easier.

Boeing North Carolina

Lean Manufacturing Solve (Many) Problems

Traditional aviation manufacturing processes have issues like defective parts, production of too many parts and obsolescence.  Those issues can be addressed by adopting lean manufacturing principles.

Lean manufacturing techniques cover areas like:

  • Power systems
  • Transmitter power supplies for electronic countermeasure systems
  • Discharge sensing systems
  • Pulse power applications
  • Jet ignition systems
  • Missile guidance systems
  • Radar transmission systems

These obstacles are being addressed with lean manufacturing techniques to reduce waste in many areas. Result improvement has been dramatic in areas such as improved cycle times, quality, assembly and other areas. Lean management also shows improvement in reduction in bottlenecks, waste reduction, response to change and improved flexibility.


Many lean manufacturing and green manufacturing practices have a lot in common. Both address challenges related to waste reduction and sustainability while maintaining product availability and quality. Other areas where the impact can be seen is reduction in hazardous waste, compliance with regulatory and environmental laws, lower use of raw materials and energy savings.

Lean principles have a big impact on plant maintenance by reducing wear and tear on machinery. Using predictive maintenance applications in tandem with the others result in savings.

There is no need to replace machinery or store spare parts. Lean manufacturing principles can be applied to any manufacturing sector to streamline processes and grow market share.

Lean manufacturing requires ongoing analysis and involvement to work seamlessly. In an increasingly competitive world, adopting lean principles is essential for all manufacturing companies.