Lean manufacturing

A Helpful Guide on the Lean Manufacturing Process

There are many different styles of manufacturing that you can apply within your organization, but none are as forward-thinking as lean manufacturing.Lean manufacturing is structured around eliminating waste and making continuous improvements that help the manufacturing process become smoother. This stops overproduction, reduces lead time, improves supply chain management, and increases customer demand.

Lean manufacturing improves the production process and turns your manufacturing system into an efficient, streamlined process. Rather than getting caught up in inefficiencies or bottlenecks, the lean manufacturing process focuses on customer satisfaction and waste reduction that can scale to grow with your business.

Let's explore the lean manufacturing process step by step and learn the principles of lean manufacturing that help your company’s operations shine.

Key Steps in the Lean Manufacturing Process

While one might assume that lean manufacturing is a fairly modern process, it has been around since the beginning of large-scale assembly line manufacturing.

The concept of lean manufacturing grew out of the Toyota Production System, or TPS. TPS was developed by Taiichi Ohno and Eiji Toyoda, two Japanese engineers who developed a method of manufacturing that focused on streamlining automation. Their system was based on three principles:

  • Eliminate waste (muda)
  • Design out inconsistency (mura)
  • Design out overburden (muri)

Looking at these origins, we can see where the process improvement mindset that’s so central to lean thinking started to evolve. While the modern lean manufacturing process may have begun in Japan, it has since been adapted into manufacturing systems across the globe. Below, we’ll take a deeper dive into the key steps for implementing a lean manufacturing process.

Develop a Simple Manufacturing Plan

The first step of the lean thinking process is to develop a simple plan that you can apply within your operations. By creating a streamlined process for your organization, you can put the focus on eliminating wasteful practices and improving your flow. There are several areas of consideration when developing your plan:

  • Find value: The value of your product isn’t what you think it is worth — it’s what your customer is willing to pay for it. With this value at the core of your strategy, you can develop a manufacturing process that eliminates unnecessary steps.
  • Map the value stream: Value stream mapping is a visual tool that allows you to see the current state of your processes, and design a future state for your processes. It details all critical steps from the customer request, to the raw materials, all the way to the finished product. Mapping out your value stream can allow you to find areas of overlap, which helps make it easier to identify potentially redundant processes.
  • Create flow: Creating flow means finding the most direct production scheduling. A flow should limit interruptions and keep production moving at a steady pace, without introducing disharmony or non-value-adding complications to the manufacturing operation.
  • Establish a pull system: A pull system refers to an inventory process that doesn't fall into over-processing, but instead pulls in materials as needed. This is also called the Just-in-Time (JIT) method, which is production in small batches based on customer demand. This allows a company to focus on just a few things at once rather than spreading resources across too many areas, which can have a negative impact on product quality.

To get a clearer idea of how this works, imagine a business that makes a car part. They start their simple manufacturing plan by establishing what their customers are willing to pay for the part, and determining the current demand for it. Then, they map the value stream that includes the part’s materials and each step in the creation process. Finally, they organize a pull system that puts the materials into an inventory system that pulls materials only when needed.

Pro Tip

A kanban control system uses visual signals, usually in the form of color-coded cards, to manage change, quickly adapt the workplace to new information, and increase your teams’ ability to scale to the size of the project. This helps manage downtime and the elimination of waste in the production cycle.

Continuously Improve Your Process

Even after you’ve created your lean manufacturing plan, your work is not over — you will continue to work towards improving your processes. Also known as kaizen, this methodology relies on every team member, from the CEO to your floor staff, to identify areas for improvement. Lean manufacturing’s emphasis on continuous improvement not only pinpoints new areas for optimization, but also helps you to stay on top of your processes. This ensures that the cycle time of your products and services doesn't start to accrue waste again.

There are many ways in which you can improve, but here are a few examples to keep in mind while working through the continuous improvement of your lean manufacturing process:

  • Take suggestions from all team members: If you limit the feedback you get regarding your lean manufacturing process, you could miss key opportunities to improve. When you allow feedback from all team members, you can uncover areas of inefficiency that you might not have discovered otherwise.
  • Communicate success: Overhauling your manufacturing process is a big deal. Make sure you communicate the results of your lean manufacturing process improvements to your team, so they can see the importance of following the new procedures and the core principles that guide the process.
  • Show trust in your team: Kaizen requires that you have trust in your team, and believe that they want to find areas of optimization just as much as you do. That means giving your employees the freedom to come up with their own ideas for eliminating waste, and giving them the opportunity to communicate these ideas.

Pro Tip

Virtual surveys are an excellent means of collecting feedback and opinions regarding your continuous improvement strategies. This can help you gather a wide range of information in order to make the best improvements to your process.

Measure Your Progress

Incorporating lean thinking and continual improvement into your operations is great, but it’s only a piece of the puzzle. When making any changes to your manufacturing processes, it’s important to rely on hard data and define metrics to measure — using hard data — whether or not the changes you are making are having the desired effect. Thankfully, there are lean manufacturing tools that are designed to help you monitor and manage your lean process.

Pro Tip

Setting up a dashboard is a great way to look through your metrics at a glance. Tools like statistical process control (SPC) and overall equipment effectiveness (OEE) can help you measure your improvements and find out whether your workflow streamlining is working, or if there are still areas where you can eliminate waste and implement more lean thinking.

The Benefits of a Sound Lean Manufacturing Process

Now that you understand the lean mindset and how lean thinking can be implemented in your business, let’s take a look at some of the benefits of incorporating lean manufacturing methodology within your organization.

It Saves Your Business Time and Money

By eliminating waste and overproduction, you increase your chances of standardizing your lead times and improve your understanding of your supply chain needs.

The waste doesn't just end with your raw materials, though. A lean process also eliminates employee downtime and makes your teams more effective as well. The kaizen mindset brings your entire organization closer together, as everyone is striving toward a common goal.

The Reduction of Waste Is Better for the Environment

Another major benefit of the lean manufacturing process is the environmentally friendly practices that can be put in place. When you produce according to demand, you don't need to throw out or dispose of as many materials. You can also reduce the amount of energy you use when you implement a pull system by only running power to machines that are actively being used.

You Can See an Improvement in Customer Satisfaction

Lean manufacturing starts by focusing on the customer value and demand. When you put the customer at the center of your processes, you increase your authority and desirability among your target audiences. The result is higher levels of customer satisfaction.

Start Your Lean Journey With Amper

Lean manufacturing may not be a new methodology, but it continues to have a stronghold within the modern manufacturing world. The benefits of reducing waste and keeping the focus on effective processes can bring your entire organization together and create a smoothly-run, streamlined manufacturing system.

By implementing lean methodology, you can continuously improve your workflow and create a system that is built to scale with your organization.

Amper’s manufacturing operating system allows you to collect real-time data on your machines, which helps you find areas for improvement and any wasteful production time. Learn more about how Amper can help you begin your lean manufacturing journey.

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