Although other terms such as just-in-time production are used, lean manufacturing is the most common way to describe this leading goal for modern production methods. But what exactly is lean manufacturing? How does it benefit the consumer and / or the industries who use it? How can lean manufacturing improve quality while keeping costs down?
The idea of lean manufacturing is not new, but it has received a lot of attention in recent years. Basically, lean manufacturing seeks to look for waste and inefficiencies and eliminate them. Anything that does not add value, functionality, or quality that can be stripped out is removed from the production process. Continuous improvement by the shortest, fastest route possible is the ultimate goal.
If one company can provide a higher quality product for less cost than their competitor, they have a distinct advantage.
In the past, manufacturing companies basically produced their products to fill orders and everyone was left to do their own thing as long as products were made to the specified specifications and deadlines were met. For lean manufacturing to work best, everyone in the supply chain needs to be more informed because the end result usually involves several manufacturers. If there is a communication breakdown, things will be less efficient.
If a process in the manufacturing is being unnecessarily duplicated in supply chain members, it can be eliminated if it does not contribute to the value, function, or quality. A smooth work flow is the only way to get the best results at the lowest cost. This is all the more reason for cooperation within a supply chain. Transportation, machine set-up, inventory, quality consistency and inspection, material handling, these all affect the work flow and are closely evaluated to achieve lean manufacturing.
Aside from cost savings, another benefit to lean manufacturing is that better use can often be made of smaller spaces. With solutions such as work cells, minimal movement of parts and assemblies creates better efficiency with less manufacturing space. Other befit include reduced defects, less handling, better on-time delivery, and less inventory or storage requirements.
Lean manufacturers can get higher quality products to market quicker, control their costs, reduce waste, partner with other supply chain members to achieve the most efficient work flow, and offer better value to the consumer while still making profit.