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What is Lean Manufacturing?

Time waste differs from material waste in that there can be no salvage.” – Henry Ford

Lean is a methodology used by industrial engineers in the field of manufacturing. The important distinction to know within Lean is the difference between non-value and value adding processes. Non-value adding processes are considered ‘waste’ and the purpose of Lean is to eliminate this waste to improve industrial operations. Waste in processes manifest in multiple ways according to a Honda process engineer, Tadamitsu Tsuruoka.
1. Overproduction
2. Waiting
3. Transportation
4. Inventory
5. Motion
6. Defects

By identifying where waste is occurring, industrial engineers can remove this waste effectively. Emphasizing production around value-adding operations will increase process performance, quality, and productivity while simultaneously reducing costs and increasing operating revenues. How this is measured is by understanding cycle time, value-creation time, and lead time. Cycle time is how long it takes for a particular task to be completed before having to be repeated. Value-creation time is a portion of the cycle time that contributes monetary value to the product that customers are willing to pay for. Lastly, lead time is the total time it takes for a product to be made, from start to finish. These measurements are known as key performance indicators or KPIs.
KPIs can be improved and controlled by utilizing tools within Lean. Each of these tools serve a particular purpose in production and assist industrial engineers to optimize operations.
1. Kaizen
2. 5S
3. Value stream process mapping
4. Error proofing (Poka-yoke)
5. Kanban (pull inventory management)
6. Setup time reduction (SMED: single minute exchange of dies)
7. Productive maintenance
8. Reduced lot sizes
9. Schedule leveling
10. Line balancing
11. Standardized work
12. Visual management
No matter what is being manufactured, waste is occurring during production and costing companies time and money. However, companies can combat waste by adopting, implementing, and executing the Lean methodology in their workforce today.

The following resources were used to write this article:
Lean Six Sigma – Process Improvement Tools and Techniques by Donna C.S. Summers

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