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What is Lean Manufacturing and How Can it Help?

Posted on October 02, 2013 in Manufacturing

The concept behind the Lean Manufacturing process is simple, but it is extremely well organized and effective. The general idea behind the process is to save your company money but cutting out waste. It isn't just waste in spending, it is also waste in the procedures you use and the way you do business. Once you get the Lean manufacturing process implemented in your manufacturing area, it can also be applied to the other departments of your company to make your entire company more efficient.

The earliest example of Lean Manufacturing comes from Henry Ford's assembly lines. Prior to Ford's assembly line concept, manufacturers would create products by hand, one at a time. The process was time consuming and costly. Ford wanted to be able to sell more cars than anyone else, so he devised a way to cut down on manufacturing costs by creating an assembly line. Over the years, the idea of efficient manufacturing has been explored by countless entrepreneurs. In 1990, author James Womack referred to the Lean Manufacturing process in his book The Machine That Changed The World and a new era in manufacturing was born.

The simplest way to look at Lean Manufacturing is to consider a series of questions that apply to the way that your company does business. As you answer these questions, you will be able to identify the ways that your company can improve its manufacturing process.

Are You Making Too Much Product?

The Lean method forces you to compare your manufacturing schedule with the annual trends in your business. If you continue to produce products at an even pace during the down times in your business cycle, then you are wasting money.

Is Your Process Efficient?

How long does it take your production people to fulfill an order? The speed with which you are able to manufacture products is a direct reflection on the process you are using.

How Well Do You Manage Inventory?

By reviewing your sales patterns for the past few years, you can determine just how much raw material you need to have on hand and how much product you have on the shelves. You will find that you are wasting money by purchasing too much materials, or by holding onto finished product inventory levels that are not in sync with the pace of your sales.

How Well Do You Plan Logistics?

Does your company constantly analyze what it spends on shipping and then look for better options? Logistics is a vital link between your company and your customers. If it takes you too long to ship products and you are paying too much for the shipping company you are using, then you are wasting a lot of your money and your customers' time.

Do You Repeat Processes During Manufacturing?

Sometimes a manufacturer will have a process done twice to insure quality. That kind of wasteful spending can cause a profitable company to lose money. If you are not sure of the people doing the process the first time, then get new people. If you are repeating manufacturing processes, then eliminate the extra process and make your production area more efficient.

Is There Wasted Motion In Your Process?

Do you have an employee that constantly has to walk all the way down the production line to get a part or tool he needs? Your machines and your employees need to be in sync in order to be efficient.

Is Your Workforce Efficient?

Does your company spend a long time doing quality control? Are you making the best possible use of the personnel that you have? When you use your workforce efficiently and train them properly, you can cut down on how much you spend on personnel costs.