In today’s environmentally conscious social climate, it’s important now more than ever to strike a balance between the use of resources (both natural and artificial) and the production of high-quality goods and services. Lean manufacturing or lean production methods are becoming more and more common as a standard to minimize the amount of waste within a system, without sacrificing productivity.
In addition, lean manufacturing principles skew towards constant vigilance and self-improvement, rather than the final outcome. By focusing on the process in which something is made, defaults are minimized, the right raw materials are sourced, staff is well-trained and coordinated, and the costs of production are properly optimized.
Failure to understand and apply a lean mindset to your day-to-day operations will most likely result in failure or an ineffective implementation of certain processes within your organization, so it’s important that you’re well-informed in terms of what exactly being “lean” means for you.
Here are three lean manufacturing principles you should consider.
1. Waste Not
Elimination or minimization of waste is perhaps one of the most fundamental principles of lean manufacturing. To this end, there are eight basic types of waste acknowledged in manufacturing:
- Transportation: unnecessary product movement;
- Inventory: raw material/unused resources;
- Motion: wear and tear on equipment;
- Waiting: delay in processing/in a queue, waiting to be worked;
- Over-processing: doing more to a product than required, using up time and resources;
- Over-production: making more of a product than necessary;
- Defects: having to discard earlier defective work and redo; and
- Skills: underutilization of worker skills.
Although the above-mentioned types of waste were originally geared toward the manufacturing industry, one can find similarities across sectors and apply these traits to many different types of businesses. Ultimately, waste elimination allows you to systemically review all areas in your organization and be able to determine where the non-value-added work is located and reduce or eliminate it outright.
2. Never Stop Learning
Continuous improvement is another lean principle that you should consider for your organization. Often referred to as kaizen, in business, it refers to activities that continually improve all functions, from the CEO all the way down to the assembly line workers. It can also be applied to more administrative processes, such as purchasing and logistics. By improving the overall workflow and process of production, kaizen aims to eliminate key non-value waste.
This notion of continuous improvement can also be carried over into all aspects of one’s life, both professionally and personally. Improvement should be a mindset that resonates throughout your professional relationships and career aspirations. In addition, don’t underestimate the little things, as small ideas can often lead to big revelations.
3. Prioritize Quality
In today’s modern marketplace, a company must understand its customers’ wants and needs if it wants to be competitive and, ultimately, successful. To this end, quality control is something that should be highly prioritized in one’s manufacturing process, and companies should be designing processes to meet both customer expectations and requirements.
This prioritization is made easier if quality is built into the overall manufacturing process. If quality is built into various stages such as the choices of custom material handling solutions, you minimize the amount of waste produced by the overall process. In addition, perhaps consider automatic processes to better control the manufacturing process. Machines can detect defects and, with human input, production can be adjusted to address any issues. In lean manufacturing, the focus is ultimately on doing it right the first time.
These are only three lean manufacturing principles, but there are many more to consider. By recognizing and implementing lean processes, you’ll better understand what adds value to your business and what you can do to ultimately achieve success.