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The Lean Manufacturing Principles originated from the Japanese manufacturing industry. They were first heard in America in the late 1980's. The principles were made famous in the United States by James Womack in his book "The Machine That Changed The World."

Lean Overview

The essence of Lean is to focus effort on removing waste in order to improve process flow to achieve speed and agility at lower cost. The goal is to increase the percentage of value-added work performed by a company.

Lean recognizes that most businesses spend a relatively small portion of their energies on the true delivery of value to a customer.

While all companies are busy, it is estimated for some companies that as little as 10% of their time is spent on value-added work, meaning as much as 90% of time is allocated to non value-added activities, or waste.

Lean Waste

Forms of waste include-

  • Wasted capital (inventory), 
  • wasted material (scrap), wasted time (cycle time), 
  • wasted human effort (inefficiency, rework) and, 
  • wasted energy (energy inefficiency). 

Lean is a prescriptive methodology for relatively fast improvements across a variety of processes, from administrative to manufacturing applications.

Lean enables your company to identify waste where it exists. It also provides the tools to make improvements on the spot.

Lean Manufacturing Principles


Lean Manufacturing Principles require that we specify value from the customer's perspective for both products and service.

Customer Value Add (VA)

The essential activities that;

  • The customer is willing to pay for.
  • It transforms the product or service.
  • It's being done for the first time.

Customer Non-value Add (NVA)

  • All activities that are not value add

Business Non-value Add (BNVA)

  • All activities that are NVA but necessary in order that the business run correctly - regulatory requirements, credit checks, checking shipping address, etc.
Value added or non-value added selection chart


Lean focuses on what's called the Value Stream, the sequence of activities and work required to produce a product or to provide a service. It is similar to a linear process flow map, but it contains its own unique symbols and data. It's the horizontal sequence of steps that a product or service travels through within a company.

The Lean method is based on understanding how the Value Stream is organized, how work is performed, which work is value added vs. non-value added, and what happens to products and services and information as they flow through the Value Stream.

Lean identifies and eliminates the barriers to efficient flow through simple, effective tools.

Identify the value stream for products and services and remove any non-value-added waste along the value stream. 


Make the product and service flow without interruption across the value stream. Flow is just what it states; it allows product or service to progress without delay and interruption. Achieving flow requires the balancing of resources.


Produce products and services based on pull from the customer. After the establishment of flow, companies create pull. The opposite of pull is “push”. Push occurs when we offer products or information before the customer calls for them.


Constantly remove waste and strive for better-and-better value to the customer.


Better Quality
Quality also improves as unnecessary and wasteful processes are eliminated. When you eliminate a wasteful process step the defect opportunity is also eliminated.

Shorter Lead Times
By eliminating waste and increasing flow the shortest possible lead times are achieved.

Lower Cost
The result of waste elimination and being "lean" is the lowest possible cost. A lean manufacturer will outperform a non-lean manufacturer. A lean enterprise will outperform a lean manufacturer.

Higher Employee Morale
Employees are much happier working in situations that are "in control". Organization and structure are the foundation of most good things.

Better Safety
Injuries tend to happen within disorganized and wasteful processes. Lean eliminates these types of processes and by doing so improves safety.

From Lean Manufacturing Principles to Lean Manufacturing.

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