Lean Manufacturing

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Lean as an improvement methodology has grown well beyond lean manufacturing only. Those on the cutting edge of improvement now drive to implement it at the Enterprise Level.

What is Lean

Lean is about eliminating waste and implementing continuous flow for products and information. It's based upon 5 core principles.

Lean manufacturing history now stretches over a century deep. Although first created for production environments, implementing lean is appropriate for service and office transaction environments.

Lean is based on simple principles and tools all aimed at eliminating or minimizing the eight types of "Lean" waste.

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A Lean manufacturer will outperform a non-Lean manufacturer. A Lean Enterprise will outperform BOTH!

Lean Waste

One of the primary goals of Lean Manufacturing is to eliminate waste. In order to eliminate waste we must first understand what “Lean" classifies as waste......

Waste 1: Waiting

Waiting for material and information is waste. Waiting is a delay and disruption in the process and interrupts flow.

Waste 2: Overproduction

Overproduction is producing too much or producing too soon. Overproduction consumes resources for things that the customer has not asked for and may not need.

Waste 3: Rework

Rework or repair is any change to the product or information after it's been made. Rework or repair result from things not done right the first time.

Waste 4: Motion

The waste of motion typically refers to the movement of a people. Unnecessary motion extends the time to complete the task.

Waste 5: Processing

Over-processing refers to information such as documents. Documents that require numerous approvals to move forward. Performing operations that the customer does not care about.

Waste 6: Inventory

Inventory is any material that is kept in a quantity above the minimum to get the job done. Inventory ties up money and compounds problems when quality issues are found.

Waste 7: Intellect

The waste of intellect is the failure to utilize the time and the talents of people properly.

Waste 8: Transportation

The last waste is transportation. Any movement of product or information is considered waste.

Eliminating waste and making operations more efficient overall will go a long way in making any business more successful. These companies exemplify lean manufacturing practices and have left industry with a blueprint on how to do it.

Learn more about eliminating Lean waste here.

Lean Tools


S1: Sorting

The first step of 5S is to organize the work area. Only those things that are used each day should be within the work area. Daily use items should be within arms reach if possible. Less frequently used items should be stored further away. Items never used should be removed all together.

After sorting productivity improvement is almost instant.

S2: Straightening

The second step of 5S involves arranging the items that remain after 5S. Materials, tools and information, are arranged so that they are easy to find by anyone. Good order facilitates efficient and mistake-free processes.

S3: Shining

The third step of 5S is a good old fashion cleaning. Keep the area clean and don't allow things to accumulate. Find preventive methods where you can to keep the mess from happening in the first place.

S4: Standardizing

The fourth step of 5S is to create a consistent method for carrying out 5S tasks and procedures. Implement visual controls such as signs, boards, color codes, schedules, etc.

S5: Sustaining

The last step of 5S is to commitment to the change and sustain the improvement. Without “Sustaining”, the area will revert back to being disorganized. Implement roles & responsibilities.

Before and After 5S

Organization is the Foundation of Most Good Things

Visual Factory

5S is the foundation of the visual factory. In the visual factory you can tell what's going on just by looking around.

Envision that you're a new employee:

  • Is the flow of the work visually evident?
  • Are storage locations for material visually evident?
  • Is the status of material visually evident?
  • Is a missing equipment visually evident?
  • When there's a problem with production or service, is it visually evident?


Kaizen is Japanese for "improvement" or "change for the better".The philosphy of Kaizen is that all processes should be conitually evaluated and improved. Kaizen improvement events are used to continuously improve in all lean practices.


Kanban is Japanese for "sign board" or "bill board". Kanban is a Lean Manufacturing technique that is used to "pull" the product or service through the process. Kanban tells us when to produce, what to produce, and how many to produce. Some signal examples are colored cards or empty containers. The visual signal "pulls" for replenishment. Kanban requires workload balancing.

Lean Manufacturing Facts

  1. Without 5S you cannot sustain a Visual Factory!
  2. Without the Visual Factory you cannot have Standard Work!
  3. Without Standard Work you cannot achieve Kaizen (change for the better)!
  4. Without Kaizen you cannot implement Kanban!
  5. Without Kanban - Just-In-Time is not possible!

Free Lean Enterprise Roadmap

From Lean Manufacturing to Free Six Sigma home.

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