What is Lean Manufacturing? 5 Basic Principles

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what is lean manufacturing

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The Lean Manufacturing System was developed by Toyota in the 1950s in Japan.

It was the main driving force that contributed to the transformation of the company into one of the leading players in the automotive industry.

With constant work to eliminate activities that do not add value to the process, Toyota has become the leading example of a lean company in the world.

But what is Lean Manufacturing, conceptually speaking?

It is a management philosophy that seeks to reduce waste while increasing productivity and quality.

It is used in many different types of companies in the incessant search for a competitive edge.

The use of Lean management principles is today the most logical way to develop a company that thinks about:

  • Continuous improvement;
  • Cost reduction;
  • Production efficiency;
  • Greater productive capacity;
  • Employee work environment improvements.

5 Principles: What is Lean Manufacturing?

We have separated 5 basic principles that will help you in understanding what Lean Manufacturing is.

1. Specify value from the customer’s point of view (Value)

The value, reflected in its sales price and market demand, must be defined by the customer despite being produced by the manufacturer.

The value in a product is created by the manufacturer through a series of combinations, actions, activities, and processes.

That’s why value is the starting point for Lean Thinking.

Lean Thinking is based on the TPS – Toyota Production System and was developed in the automotive industry.

The goal of Lean Thinking is to eliminate unnecessary activities, and to preserve and enhance those that add value to the customer.

2. Align the activities that create value into the best possible sequence (Value Flow)

Value flows are the activities required for the production of all products.

They include the whole production flow, from raw material stage to the final consumer.

It also includes the flow design itself, from its conception to the launch of a new product on the market.

This enables company managers to see the full flow of processes and better understand what Lean Manufacturing is all about.

Value Flow Mapping is an essential tool used in Lean Manufacturing for these reasons:

  • It helps you visualize more than just individual processes;
  • Assists in identifying the sources of waste in the value flow;
  • Provides a common language for understanding and discussing processes;
  • It makes flow decisions more apparent so that you can analyze them;
  • You can add lean concepts and techniques, and avoid the implementation of some techniques which have an isolated impact;
  • It forms the basis of a lean implementation plan;
  • It clearly shows the connection between the flow of information and the flow of material;
  • Describes in detail, in a qualitative way, how your productive unit must operate to create the flow.

3. Perform these activities without interruption (Continuous Flow)

The use of continuous flow reduces delays between activities and stock levels.

This eliminates queues and allows you to produce in line with the pace of demand.

After all, improving flow means reducing steps, times, costs and all unnecessary efforts.

This shows how much each activity is required for the process, always maintaining a continuous flow of order and delivery.

4. When it’s demanded (Pulled Production)

Pulled production is the production control method in which the initial flow activities (such as a request, for example) warn the subsequent flow activities (such as stock control or packaging) about their needs, ie, it attempts to eliminate overproduction.

Here, the demand generated by the customer is the “start” of production. Needs are provided and attended to when required.

5. Increasingly effective (Perfection)

With the help of Lean Manufacturing, the goal of quality control is to attain perfection through continual improvement.

At this point, it is worth talking about the 5S program.

The 5S philosophy, also called 5 Senses, is intended to organize and raise awareness among all company employees about cleaning and organizing work spaces in a logical and effective manner.

The program was developed, according to consensus, by the engineer Kaoru Ishikawa, in Japan after the Second World War.

It has been used to this day in the majority of companies that consider the fight against waste as a company philosophy.

The name 5S is derived from the first initials of 5 Japanese words:

  • Seiri – Selection and disposal (Sense of Utility);
  • Seiton – Good disposition and order (Sense of Order);
  • Seiso – Cleaning and daily inspection (Sense of Zeal);
  • Seiketsu – Take care of physical, mental and emotional health in a preventive way (Sense of Hygiene);
  • Shitsuke – Maintain results obtained through repetition and practice (Sense of Discipline).

As you have seen, lean’s main focus is on avoiding waste in companies.

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