Business Automation and Software Blog

Lean Manufacturing: What You Need to Know to Get Started

Posted by Robert Baran on Wed, Apr 03, 2019 @ 11:00 AM

We’ve all heard the term “lean manufacturing.” Some have ventured down the road already while others are making plans to implement. For those of you trying to figure out where to start, you’re in a good place to ensure lean is started the right way for maximum effectiveness. Automation is a great boon to lean manufacturing, but it can also result in massive waste if not properly addressed from the beginning.

What is Lean Manufacturing?

Originally derived from a Japanese system, westernized lean manufacturing is built on five principles:

  • Value– Identify all of the value-adding functionality in your product (from the customer’s point of view, not yours)
  • The Value Stream– Put all of the value adding steps alongside each other and remove the non-value-adding steps
  • Flow– By shortening the value chain, value begins to flow and gains velocity along the value chain
  • Pull– Get the customer to pull the product and only manufacture to replenish the warehouse
  • Perfection– Start again and reexamine the processes

No one disagrees that lean thinking is brilliant. But we should also agree that, as with most processes, one size does not fit all. As you plan to integrate lean into your manufacturing, you need to personalize the program to your particular machines and workforce.

The Value of Value

Do you have a solid understanding of relevant value to your industry? Many companies may not be as in touch with their markets as they think. They claim to know their customers, yet do not know how their customers define value in their purchases. So, how did they define the customer’s value proposition?

When it comes to addressing value stream, some larger factories will not allow a physical change to the layout to remove waste and put the value-adding activities next to each other. If you do not remove the non-value-adding activities from the shop floor entirely, after a short period of time they will reappear on the shop floor. The new layout must prevent the opportunity to resurrect those old practices, otherwise you’ll end up right back where you started.

Lean Manufacturing Roots

Since it is derived from a Japanese concept, it makes sense that lean would reference three Japanese terms that can help us better understand the process: mudamura, and muri.

Muda is a Japanese on’yomi word meaning “futility; uselessness; wastefulness.” It refers to the seven wastes, all identifying different aspects of the production cycle that rob capacity and resources from the value-add to the customer.

Mura translates to “unevenness; irregularity; lack of uniformity; non-uniformity; inequality,” and muri means “unreasonableness; impossible; beyond one’s power; too difficult; by force; perforce; forcibly; compulsorily; excessiveness; immoderation”

Where to Start

It is clear the war on waste is ongoing, especially since it equates to money for a manufacturer. First, you must be able to find the waste. To find it, remember to look for the seven wastes lean identifies, as well as the variants of muda, mura, and muri:

  1. A good understanding of production is required, knowing what happens inside at an operational level. Factories are full of legacy processes and customs; these need to be identified and dealt with in the appropriate forum
  2. The manufacturing processes must be carefully mapped and documented before any of these initiatives can begin. Typically, the team tasked with implementing lean will be assigned to map the processes. Independent from the legacy issues, focus relentlessly on the process and the value adding steps
  3. Once that process is underway, the hidden factory will be discovered. It can then be dismantled! Usually, there are a number of quick wins here, simple issues that create defects and waste money.

Flow, Pull, Perfection

Once the value-adding activities are put alongside one another, the value will begin to flow. A number of simple tricks exist that will create flow, such as simple conveyors that will join two machines together, removing the extra handling.

Next, look to create Pull and reduce overproduction—sell one, make one. To achieve this, the factory must be stable and predictable. Only once the predictability exists can the stockholding be systematically reduced. A rapid stock reduction with unpredictable operations is commercial suicide.

As for perfection: If you think you have it, start again and reexamine.

Lean Manufacturing with PositiveVision

That’s just the initial work to start your lean manufacturing journey. It might seem overwhelming, but you don’t have to go it alone. The right technology—and the right technology partner—can make a world of difference in understanding the operations of your manufacturing facilities and setting up new processes and plans that are lean-compliant.

Whether you’re looking for a manufacturing ERP, warehouse management systems, or business intelligence applications, look no further than PositiveVision, Inc. For more than fifteen years, we’ve been helping businesses streamline inefficient processes and reduce costs to be more productive and more profitable. Let us show you how it could work for you. Contact us now.

Topics: lean manufacturing