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Apr 13, 2010

History of Lean Manufacturing

After the Second World War, Japanese manufacturers were facing diminished human, material, and financial resources. These circumstances led to the development of new, lower cost, manufacturing practices. Early Japanese manufacturers such as the Toyota Motor developed a disciplined, process-focused production system now known as Toyota Production System. The objective of this system was to minimise the consumption of resources (waste) that added no value to a product.

The Lean manufacturing concept was popularized in large part by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology study of the movement from mass production toward Lean production as described in the book: The Machine That Changed the World, (Womack, Jones & Roos, 1990). This book described the important elements accounting for superior performance as Lean production. The term Lean was used because such business methods used less human effort, capital investment, floor space, materials, and time in all aspects of operations.

2. What are the other names of Lean?

Lean is also known as:

- Toyota Production System

- World Class Manufacturing System

- Just In Time System

3. What are the 5 Key Principles of Lean Thinking?

The key to Lean Thinking is driven by the following 5 key principles. In adopting a holistic approach to Lean which encompasses the 5 Principles and deploying Lean tools and techniques to gradually eliminate waste, an organisation gets progressively Lean.

1 - Value

Identify and create products or services that add value to a client's objectives, ensuring full customer satisfaction and beyond.

2 - Value Stream

Identify the vital steps that facilitate an efficient production or service line workflow, and also the unnecessary steps that result in waste. Optimise workflow through eliminating the non-value steps and create a value stream.

3 - Flow

Eliminate steps in the workflow that potentially cause interruption, bottlenecks, delay or destruction. Create efficient steps without these negative effects to form a value flow.

4 - Pull

Supply only upon demand. Produce only when the customer pulls, so that no resources are wasted.

5 - Perfection

Strive for perfection by continually removing successive layers of waste as they are uncovered.

4. How to summarize Lean in one sentence?

A systematic approach to identifying and eliminating waste (non-value-added activities) through continual improvement by flowing value at the pull of the customer in pursuit of perfection.

5. Is Lean applicable only to manufacturers?

Although Lean originated from the manufacturing sectors, Lean solutions and tools can be customised to cater to any potential situation in an organisation, be it manufacturing or service. Lean can be applied in a flexible manner to achieve effective results regardless of the type of industries, or size of a company. To date Lean has been implemented by manufacturing and service organizations, public sectors throughout the world.
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