Lean manufacturing is a continuous process improvement methodology based on the Toyota Production System (TPS). The basic idea of lean manufacturing is for a company to capitalize on delivering value to their customers by teaching employees to identify and eliminate waste from their work environment. Simply put, a business must focus on utilizing its resources more effectively to deliver more value and increased customer satisfaction on a continuous basis.
Organizations who have successfully implemented lean solutions have gone to great lengths to analyze their customers’ needs to understand their definition of “value” and how to deliver it. The end result is that a company must continually focus on their processes and how they are performing in order to discover better ways to increase value.
The goal for any business is to improve problem solving skills that effectively expand continuous process improvement capabilities in order to minimize waste and increase customer value. To achieve this, a paradigm shift is required because a management team must learn to integrate lean manufacturing thinking into their business methods. This will help them to gain new insights about their business activities, and optimize their assets, technologies, services, and products that can improve process flow throughout the entire value stream.
Removing waste throughout the value stream will create more efficient and effective processes which will increase productivity. This will lead to changes in resource requirements, such as fewer people, lower operating costs, reduced floor space, and increased throughput. An organization will be able to make and deliver their products and services at a lower cost and with fewer defects in comparison to a traditional non-lean business. Lean manufacturing companies have the additional capability of responding effectively to fluctuations in customer needs without affecting quality, cost, and delivery.
A misconception about lean manufacturing principles is that they can only be utilized by manufacturing companies. This is not true. Lean solutions are ideas for improvement that can be applied to any process in all business environments. Today, lean manufacturing principles are being successfully used by financial and educational institutions, healthcare, government agencies, and many other types of organizations, to help improve the delivery of their products and services to their customers.
Many organizations start off thinking of lean manufacturing as nothing more than a cost reduction program, but this often changes as they delve deeper into the implementation and integration of lean principles into their business model. They begin to realize that lean solutions have more to do with developing an organizational culture that is focused on continuous process improvement, and this will impact the way they think and act when searching for a solution.
Many companies do not actually include the word “lean” when describing their internal operating system. They prefer to use “transformation” or something similar. The reason a business will do this is to convey to their employees that lean manufacturing is not a short term program or cost reduction initiative, but a new way for the entire company to operate. The long term sustainment of a new operating system will require effective leadership, cross-functional collaboration, and perseverance.