Lean Manufacturing – An Overview

Lean Manufacturing can be referred to as a technique that makes use of a variety of principles and devices with the major goal to reduce the wastes produced during manufacturing processes while ensuring that the overall productivity is amplified. In between diminishing the manufacturing wastes produced, it magnificently increases the worth offered to the customers, thus reducing the required time and involved costs.

Origin of lean manufacturing

The very concept of lean manufacturing was obtained from the manufacturing industry of Japan. Various production management methods have evolved in Japan that includes JIT, Toyota Production System, KANBAN, and Production Scheduling. There is a term called “Kaizen” in Japan that refers to consistent development and is also associated with lean manufacturing. This method of manufacturing has proved beneficial for Japan and Toyota way. With increased removal of wastes and the overall profit, the Toyota Motor Corporation has been successful in making lean manufacturing a huge thing.

Lean manufacturing techniques

In almost all of the lean manufacturing processes, a collection of tools is used to determine the wastes and discard them uniformly. Upon detecting the wastes, the usual production time and induced costs can be significantly diminished. A similar lean manufacturing approach is inculcated by Toyota, usually referred to as the Toyota way. In this method, the primary importance is placed upon enhancing the workflow or the fluidity of work processes. Through this technique, they focus on eradicating Mura, i.e., deviations observed in the system and not specifically on waste elimination. Some of the effective approaches used in this lean manufacturing method are production levelling, the Heijunka box, and the “pull” production that hugely assist in magnifying the flow rate.

One might ask what is basically the difference between these two lean manufacturing techniques. It is quite clear the approaches taken in these two techniques are different, not the ultimate goal. The smooth workflow method is better than the tool-identifying lean manufacturing process in a way that operation of smooth workflow informs about the high-quality issues that are prevalent, thus resulting in the natural reduction of wastes generated.

While the second approach considers the perspective required for the overall system enhancement, tool-centred waste management, on the other hand, presumes the needed perspective. According to the Toyota way, the main technique of lean manufacturing doesn’t lie upon the tools incorporated but upon the decrease of three categories of wastes known as Muda or non-value-adding work, Mura or distortion, and Muri or extra burden. With these methods, the underlying issues are also explored thus aiding the application of tools in sections where the usual idea cannot be incorporated.

Thus, with the ongoing situations, the tools and methods implemented in lean manufacturing vary while keeping the principles intact.

Muda – An unsuccessful activity in an organization

In Muda, or wastes that do not contribute any profitable value to the system, there are seven categories of wastes that are not favoured by the customers. These wastes include Motion, Waiting, Transportation, Inventory, Defects, Overprocessing, and Overproduction.

Usually, it is quite easier to identify the defects which are one type of wastes. The defects found in the production processes are associated with huge costs as well. Overproduction is a type of waste that will result in increased inventory. A huge inventory further leads to a lack of detection of organizational issues. Some of the instances of overproduction in lean manufacturing can be referred to the batch processing and excess supply situations.

Transportation is also considered a waste because it has no additional value towards the product. Similarly, a great amount of time is expended towards awaiting the products ordered. The time we spend for an engineer to manufacture the item or for other essential services is equal to waste that can be restored or decreased.

Starting from the raw materials used to the finished goods that are a part of the total inventory costs are similar to wastes until and unless they are sold or utilized in any form. Motion-related waste can be referred to as a situation wherein a machine completes a work with more strain than required or a warehouse or station that needs a movement to be done from the workplace.

Overprocessing waste can be reduced in lean manufacturing by utilizing highly performing small machines that can be easily reachable as compared to the huge conventional machines.

Thus, we see that with lean manufacturing the wastes are significantly reduced along with diminished lead times and operational costs while the overall product quality is enhanced. To understand the concept of lean manufacturing more clearly, let us have a look at the principles of lean manufacturing that will provide a better comprehension of its implementation.

Principles of lean manufacturing

The major principles of lean manufacturing include –

  • Value Identification: Although organizations are responsible for producing the value, customers are the ones who actually characterize it. The value of the products or services offered by the organizations can be conveniently understood from the value designated by the customers. In this way, the companies can determine the product’s value from the amount that the customer is interested to pay for that specific item.
  • Plan out the value stream: Structuring the value stream is another principle of lean manufacturing wherein the entire steps are specified starting from the stage of raw materials to that of customer delivery. All the information and necessary raw materials utilized from the product’s concept or design stage to its disposal to the customers are evaluated and stored properly.
  • Maintaining the flow: Maintaining a steady flow of processes right from the time of product ordered to its disposal is really important. It helps in discarding wastes generated while removing functional barriers and adopting methods to enhance the lead time. Through lean manufacturing, you can get rid of any interventions created and make use of exhaustive methods to have a consistent flow.
  • Practising an effective pull system: In lean manufacturing, organizations practice a pull system wherein they are not the ones pushing their products and services to the customers; instead, customers are the ones pulling the products out of the companies. The organizations can start manufacturing a product subject to the demand for it. As opposed to the manufacturing resource planning, or MRP systems where inventory capabilities are estimated and are thus quite unreliable, lean manufacturing eliminates the necessity of huge inventories by pulling an item when demand occurs.
  • Perpetual improvement: In lean manufacturing, the primary focus is to achieve continuous enhancement by significantly decreasing the time, incurred costs, and efforts put into creating products. The best part of this is you continuously reduce the wastes and faults while developing your product through lean manufacturing.

In addition to the principles of lean manufacturing, we have a set of tools and ideas relevant to lean manufacturing.

Lean manufacturing tools –

Some of the tools included in lean manufacturing include:

  • Heijunka

Heijunka is an efficient system that is focussed on production levelling with respect to the product type. A typical Heijunka box represents boxes that plan out time schedules for specific employees with the help of cards that inform them of their activities during these time periods. With this technique, you can ensure consistent production flow by maintaining a certain rate of the workflow without any interventions.

  • 5S

This name is inspired by five different Japanese words that have their first letter as ‘S’. The adoption of this concept is to ensure organization and integration. With this tool, you can streamline your work atmosphere, decrease the wastes generated, and increase security, competence, and the overall aspect.

  • Andon

Andon is a tool for a visual aid that makes the workers aware of a concerning situation.

  • Kanban

Kanban is a tool that is found in pull systems that are used to generate signals to create action. It can be in physical form or in electronic form that establishes essential activities and makes sure of on-time disposal.

  • Poka-yoke

Poka-yoke is an effective tool that ensures the elimination of any human operator faults. For example, an indicator system that makes you aware of a situation when an important step was overlooked or an analysis structure that puts a halt on future steps until you complete all of the preceding steps.

  • Jidoka

Jidoka is a mechanism that provides humans and machines with the capability to identify any distortion and make necessary modifications and put the work on halt until the changes are achieved.

Conclusion

Thus, it can be concluded that lean manufacturing is essential for ensuring an error-free and waste-free production system. Faulty structure of workplace and lack of necessary workforce and machines are a huge form of wastes for developed manufacturing. However, with lean manufacturing, an advanced form of production can be achieved that makes use of Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning systems to produce effective results. The principles and tools crucial for lean manufacturing need to be embraced effectively. There are several aspects in a product generation that are not appreciated by customers and are thus designated as waste in the system. So, companies should adopt lean manufacturing to pull the product to the customers and transform the trend of production.

But lean manufacturing is not just some random tools, but a way of thinking. A lean way of thinking. With a lean way of thinking along with these tools will help in reducing wastes & increasing operational, Production efficiency of an organisation.  

     

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