Top 10 Lean Manufacturing Tools & Techniques 

Lean manufacturing is a Japanese manufacturing approach that goes back to Toyota Production System, which in turn, had adopted some of the original principles from Henry Ford’s assembly-line concept. A simple overview of lean manufacturing would imply a manufacturing strategy with a proven record of success, which relies upon churning out less waste, using low inventory, and working with efficient systems for a successful production. 

Lean manufacturing’s basic principles can be summarized by 5 S’s. The first Seiri requires manufacturers to sort equipment and tools they might need, on the basis of necessity, whereas the second S is Seiton, which encourages individuals to organize these tools properly so that they can be identified and used whenever the need arises.

The third is Seiso that calls for maintaining a clean workplace, essentially for maintaining Seiton and Seiri, whereas the fourth is Seiketsu, which is essentially the process of creating a daily routine that incorporates time to do all the S’s of lean manufacturing. The fifth is Shitsuke, which operates as a final order for following all S’s for successful lean manufacturing. All these sure sound interesting, but to delve deeper into the lean manufacturing techniques, let’s check out the top 10 lean manufacturing techniques: 

1. Cut down on waste through DOWNTIME

One of the basic principles of lean manufacturing is the elimination of waste, without which successful lean manufacturing cannot happen. To help eliminate waste, lean manufacturing practices DOWNTIME. Breaking down the acronym explains how manufacturers must practice lean manufacturing. Minimize these practices of downtime and bring about better results: 

  • Defects are not just waste. They are costly and lead to rework as well as wastage. Hence, eliminate defective products.
  • Overproduction is evil. If you’re trying to save cost and you end up producing more than you can sell, the losses are more. 
  • Waiting can show itself in different forms, the most common one being, and a line shutdown, which makes you wait for part or equipment repair. 
  • Not using people’s talents is wasting labor hours and skills, and can thwart innovation. 
  • Transportation happens throughout the lean manufacturing process and can result in delays, if not maintained.
  • Inventory is usually of five types, and if all these are not maintained adequately, they can result in obsolete or overcooked inventory.
  • Motion can be any movement, but even passing on tools can be a waste of time.
  • Excess processing can make you waste time on things that don’t need so much time. 

2. Promote continuous improvement

In lean manufacturing, a culture of continuous improvement is promoted. This Japanese lean manufacturing technique relies on the old philosophical logic which believes humans are better today than yesterday. Hence, practicing kaizen, empowers one to eliminate processes that are inadequate and ineffective, while opting for better practices and solutions more suited to manufacturing needs. 

3. Proper organization using S’s

We’ve already discussed the 5S’s that are the driving factors behind lean manufacturing. But, to discuss proper organization that lean manufacturing resorts to, to ensure better productivity and production, one must sort things, set them in order, make them shine, standardize them and sustain the practices. These will keep manufacturing units working at their most efficient. 

4. Ensuring safety

While ensuring workplace cleanliness is a must, ensuring safety within your workspace is another priority lean manufacturing believes in. So, while practicing all the S’s lean manufacturing organizational methodology suggests, a company should always ensure the safety of their employees. 

Must visit: 7 Types of Industrial Robots that have Revolutionized the Manufacturing Industry

5. Fall back on numbers, and track them

You cannot track progress if you are not measuring on a daily basis. Lean manufacturing works so successfully because they track every single metric, so that if there’s an inefficient process operating in a facility, it is easier to comprehend and segregate and focus upon. Tracking also ensures minimum physical or financial damage and hence lean manufacturing encourages one to make a commitment to oneself which involves resorting to better processes through more efficiency. 

6. Respect for humanity

Most disasters in manufacturing or in the world beyond happens because we forget to appreciate and respect our human elements. Lean manufacturing takes manufacturers back to their roots, and makes them appreciate the same. Make ensuring the best interests of your employees a core principle in your organization, so that you perform consistently at your peak. There’s no better way to keep your employees loyal, dedicated and committed to their work than lean manufacturing’s practice of ensuring their best interests. 

7. Level production

Also known as heijunka, lean manufacturing’s concept of levelling production implies that you keep your production level the same every day. Lean manufacturing wants you to look at your average order amount, and keep production consistent. And if on days, you’re producing more than you can sell, let it go over to fluctuation stock, and on other days, you can produce less, so that there’s no overproduction. 

8. JIT Production for lean manufacturing

JIT Production, or Just in time production, is a process innovation of lean manufacturing that relies on reducing waste. As a lean manufacturing technique, it works just on meeting a demand, so that in the end, there’s entire elimination of waste. The ultimate goal of JIT is to have no standing inventory, and can be hard to achieve. Rather than trying to apply JIT on your entire production unit, you can start off by practicing in smaller units in every production divisions. 

9. One piece flow

Another unique yet successful lean manufacturing technique, one piece flow is all about limiting your work in progress process to a single time, so that you can increase efficiency and quality at the same go. 

10. Poka-Yoke

As fun as it sounds, in Japanese, it means mistake proofing, which is not a fun process in lean manufacturing. For manufacturing workflows or otherwise, lean manufacturing relies on this technique to ensure the top-most quality. The idea is to engineer a product without mistakes, or to re-engineer it at initial stages so that mistakes can be corrected and thwarted. Defects can also be detected through automation and this lean manufacturing process of jidoka has been proven to help poka-yoke considerably. Lean manufacturing continues to be one of the most successful manufacturing techniques for successful implementation of its core concepts! 

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