Lean manufacturing is all about cutting down on waste while maintaining and improving customer value. A customer defines the value of any given product or service by deciding how much they would willingly pay for it. Lean manufacturing strives to keep up value but with less work to achieve it. This means more value for customers with fewer resources’ being used.
It’s all about the flow
One of the main enemies of manufacturing or even any type of business is waste. Waste in all forms. Whether that be a wasting of time, energy, materials or even space. The idea of lean manufacturing is to increase the efficiency of the flow in all areas and in all processes, to make the journey smooth, quick and even.
Change minds not just tools
Many industry leaders heavily believe that to ensure successful and continued lean manufacturing there needs to be a change not only in tooling and equipment but also in the culture of a business or plant. Staff need to fully embrace the principles and make them part of their everyday working lives. This idea of setting a culture comes from the Japanese who really are the main instigators of lean manufacturing .
Why do we need it?
It is a trait of human nature to want to improve efficiency and reduce waste. It has been a problem long pondered by great thinkers, especially when the industrial revolution got in to full swing. Improving efficiency and reducing waste will obviously save costs for the organisation. These savings could be used to spend on product development or improvements which in turn will benefit the consumer. A lot of time can also be saved which could be used in developing customer relationships, staff training or even doing administration. Henry Ford (Ford Cars) was a leader in waste reduction. He was the man who put the first assembly line together and really moved mass production forward. It was then Toyota, another car manufacturer, who spurred things on even further. They developed processes that looked at every individual stage of manufacturing and found ways to improve it on every level.
Over the years many have thought that lean manufacturing was just for, as the name would suggest, manufacturers. This is absolutely not the case. Many public sectors and customer service/call centres are beginning to take the principles of efficiency and waste reduction on board. That’s the great thing about Lean, it’s transferable from industry to industry.