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Apr 11, 2010

Lean Production Principles

Lean Production is a modern management philosophy inspired by the Japanese concept of kaizen (the strategy of continuous improvement) that aims to eliminate waste in the production system. In other words, it’s like getting rid of unnecessary process in the workplace that has no added value to a product.

The ultimate goal of this methodology is to improve and speed up production by eliminating waste as far as manufacturing/production is concerned. Therefore, when we speak of Lean Manufacturing, it is addressing the “non-productive resources” in key areas of operations that are not beneficial to the entire production process.

In its simplest explanation, the Lean Manufacturing approach directly identifies common problems in operations—like defective equipment, overproduction, loose inventories, time-motion lags, over-processing, over staffing, delivery issues, unreasonable floor space, surplus and material leftovers, quality losses, etc.—and these are immediately addressed and corrected with the definitive purpose of reducing lead-times, improving quality, lowering production costs and achieving substantial results.

Putting in place a Lean Production system offers tangible and measurable results in terms of quality, efficiency and output.

A rationalized operating expense strengthens one’s competitive edge; improving production process suggests better functionality; enhanced functionality means better quality; better quality means larger market demand; more demand requires increased output; and more output means higher sales revenues.

Therefore, eliminating waste means improving the bottom line.

The word “lean” is being used to reflect the Japanese business approach in employing “less” human resource, less money/capital, less materials, etc. in all aspects of business operations.

The Lean Manufacturing, or Lean Production principles, is the reason why Toyota has been very successful in their chosen industry for several decades now. It is also the reason why manufacturing industries all over the world are adopting the same Japanese production discipline—to varying scale and style—to achieve the same success.

Every organization, sector or environment has waste.

Wherever there is waste, the “lean” philosophy and its corresponding applications can be adopted and developed to improve the entire process chain from ordering paperclips and ink, to conserving water and electricity.

Lean Manufacturing techniques are not limited to the manufacturing sector (i.e., factories, production, assembly lines, etc.). As a matter of fact, it can also be applied to service-oriented industries like the government bureaucracy, service agencies, or even at home or in the office—because these work places have elements that do not provide value to the whole work process. These elements—which are appropriately identified and analyzed—are nothing but “waste” that need to be eliminated.

Today, Lean Manufacturing techniques, or what we call “lean thinking”, have become an essential part the manufacturing sector.

It has become not only an important management tool but a way of life to continuously improve fabrication processes/methodologies and creatively adopt changes to minimize consumption and maximize production.