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What is Lean Manufacturing

Lean Manufacturing is a unified, comprehensive set of philosophies, rules, guidelines, tools, and techniques for improving and optimizing discrete processes. While Lean was born in large volume, repetitive manufacturing for the automotive industry sector, Lean principles and benefits apply to all processes (health care, service, high tech, sales & marketing, fast food, etc.).  For this reason, some call it "Lean Thinking", rather than the more restrictive title of "Lean Manufacturing".

History of Lean Manufacturing

Lean Manufacturing started as the Toyota Production System (TPS), developed by the Toyoda (now Toyota) Motor Car Company.  Toyoda started by the manufacturing of looms for manufacturing cloth, then branched into bicycles before WWII.

In time, Toyoda (now Toyota) started to manufacture engines, small delivery vehicles, trucks, and cars.  Poor management decisions almost put the company into bankruptcy.  Losing face, the Sr. Management resigned, and/or changed their ways.  They changed the name of the company (Toyoda to Toyota), granted workers life-long employment, and went on an aggressive improvement program to try and work their way back from near oblivion.  The motivations for TPS were now established.  Soon the tools and techniques started to emerge that eased the frustrations with the old, inefficient ways, and allowed Toyota to achieve its TPS goals.

Toyota's engineers looked to Henry Ford (inventor of the assembly line), Taylor (inventor of Modern Management techniques and Industrial Engineering), and Dr. W. Edwards Deming (Father of Modern Quality Management).  Based on these early beginnings, the techniques were refined, honed, and improved in all areas. With the invasion of the North American market by Volkswagon in the 1960's, and Toyota in the 1970's, and a world-wide recession, the American automotive industry was in for major changes and de-stabilization.

North American automotive watchdogs were looking for an explanation as to how Toyota could manufacture a car, ship it to North America, and sell it faster and cheaper than domestically made vehicles.  Huge import tariffs and import restrictions didn't stop the flow of these cheap, desirable cars.  Over time, the quality of the vehicles (as defined by their reliability and longevity on the road) increased at a rapid rate.  The Japanese vehicles innovated at an extremely rapid rate, while N. American designed and built vehicles tended to change at a very slow rate.

A 5 year, $5 million research project by MIT was started so as to analyze the world-wide automotive industry in 14 countries (design, markets, and manufacturing).  In "The Machine that Changed the World" Dr. Womack and his International Motor Vehicle Program (IMVP) group at MIT, identified the key differences between Toyota's TPS, European auto industry, and North America's traditional systems.  In short, N. American and European had assumed and accepted the mass production theory and honed it to perfection.  Japan and Toyota had used mass production as a starting point and evolved it further to TPS.

Womack coined the phrase "Lean Manufacturing" so as to encourage its adoption of TPS methods everywhere (for competitors to admit they were borrowing from Toyota was not feasible, nor politically possible; the old "Not Invented Here" syndrome).  Unfortunately, most didn't realize that Toyota had borrowed heavily from Henry Ford's principles of the 1930's.  Henry Ford's book was a best seller in Japan well past when the existence of Ford's book was already forgotten in North America.

Today Lean Thinking (re-coined again so as to signal that the same techniques can be used in banks, service organizations, hospitals, and all manner of business systems) is being used world-wide in a growing number of organizations.  It is applied at the point of contact with customers, as well as back room work.  It applies to Engineering & Design offices, as well as traffic flow in urban centres.

Toyota suggests that it takes a smart person at least 20 years to complete full training, attitude, knowledge and comprehension of TPS in their work venue.  However, the most significant savings can be achieved in the first 9 months.  The amount of "low hanging fruit" that is available in most organizations is staggering.

Benefits of Lean Manufacturing

  • Overhead operating costs reduced 30%
  • Sales $ per employee 10 x higher
  • Sales doubles
  • Profits 4 x higher
  • Lead time cut by 50% to 90%
  • Process queues cut by 70%
  • Less frustration on-the-job

Principles of Lean Manufacturing

  • Voice of the Customer
  • Continuous improvement
  • Recognize & Eliminate waste everywhere:
  • Over-Production (more, earlier, & faster)
  • Inventory (more than 1-piece flow)
  • Defects (non-zero defect rates)
  • Over-processing (low or no value added by un-necessary work)
  • Waiting
  • People's talents, & motivations
  • Motion
  • Transportation

Tools & Techniques of Lean Manufacturing

  • Value Mapping
  • SMED (Single Minute Exchange of Dies)
  • 1-Piece Flow
  • KanBan (Inventory Control via Card  System)
  • Poka Yoke (Mistake Proofing) & Jidoka
  • 5S (Separate, Simplify, Standardize,  Sustain and Shine)
  • Total Productive Maintenance
  • Visual Management
  • Line Optimization
  • Synchronous Manufacturing

How is Lean Manufacturing Achieved?

  • Assessing the current process
  • Understanding the customer's true desires & future market trends
  • Training & buy-in by Sr. management
  • Developing profound knowledge of the manufacturing process
  • Applying Lean tools and techniques at the most critical processes
  • Spreading out the Lean implementation to all auxiliary areas until a fully integrated manufacturing process is obtained
  • Implement Lean with suppliers
  • Implement Lean with downstream supply chain organizations, including customers
  • Apply Lean into off-line and non-manufacturing areas (Engineering, Design, Marketing, etc.)

How can Kingsway Consulting help you Implement Lean Manufacturing?

  • Initial needs assessment
  • Training for Sr. Management
  • Implementation assistance
  • Measurement systems to better control processes and lead people
  • Support and resource material for Lean

Please contact Kingsway Consulting for a FREE, no obligation consultation with one of our SR&ED experts.