What is Lean Manufacturing?

Many companies are fighting to survive in today's highly competitive global economy. Lean manufacturing offers them a proven method to reduce costs, eliminate waste, increase productivity, maintain high levels of quality and still make a profit.

Implementing lean manufacturing, and proper application of its principles, can help any company survive in these difficult financial times. It is a system that can be used not only in production areas but any other area that you are looking to streamline such as retail, hospitals or offices. It requires top-down commitment and bottom-up involvement.

Lean is a method that improves processes through continuous improvement (kaizen) and elimination of waste. It is the North American equivalent of the Toyota Production System. The foundation of Lean Manufacturing is leveling of production, known as Heijunka. Simply put, the work load each day is level. Building upon that foundation are two main pillars which represent "Just-in-time production" and "Automation with a human touch".

Just-in-time production means only product required is produced. Automation with a human touch signifies that machines are equipped in such a way that they can detect small errors when processing and have the ability to stop the process. These two pillars are joined by a respect for humanity which means associates are respected and viewed as valuable contributors. Applying Lean principles can greatly improve efficiency as well as quality. A key aspect of this system is the building of quality into the process; do not pass a defect on to the customer (the next process). Through application of this fundamental rule, problems are highlighted immediately and addressed just as quickly.

For more detailed information regarding other areas of Lean, select a category on the left and start educating yourself on the finer aspects of this system.