5 Lean Manufacturing Tools and Techniques for Sustainable Growth

5 Lean Manufacturing Tools and Techniques for Sustainable Growth

Bright AM

Reading Time: 4 minutes

The primary aim for any business is to make money and retain the market share. To do that, businesses have to eliminate unnecessary costs and make sure that the product or service is according to the customer’s expectation.

There are many ways to minimize costs and maximize benefits in a production environment. All of them have their own pros and cons, but manufacturing setups tend to favor methodologies that allow you to introduce changes without stopping production.

One way of targeting areas of inefficiencies in the system and rectifying them without affecting operations is Lean manufacturing. It is a profitable, efficient, and environmentally friendly way of operating a manufacturing line and maintaining industry standards through internal and external audits.

Top Lean Manufacturing tools and techniques

Lean manufacturing is a set of guidelines that focuses on the implementation of four main goals within the entire process. The methodical framework focuses on the continuous improvement of the product’s quality and the overall reduction in waste without increasing total cost and required time.

The Lean manufacturing process started in the early twentieth century. Over time, the framework evolved to meet the demands of the dynamic industry, and various Lean manufacturing tools and techniques were developed.

Despite being individually different, all the major Lean tools are interconnected and work together to help managers introduce meaningful changes in their processes. There are numerous Lean manufacturing tools and techniques that businesses use to enhance their operations. The following have a proven history of facilitating a company’s move toward a more sustainable future.

1. 5S: Using visual cues and standardization for improved performance

The 5S methodology is named as such because it consists of five distinct steps that begin with the letter “S.” The main focus of the 5S framework is to introduce changes in the existing process through visual communication and thorough organization. The framework is based on the traditional philosophy that states that humans perform at their best in a clean, orderly environment with pre-existing standards.

Another area where standardization contributes is quality control, which is an important element for any manufacturing environment. Most quality issues can be avoided, and standardization allows companies to take a proactive approach against them.

The five steps and their meanings are:

  • Seiri = Sort
  • Seiton = Set in order
  • Seiso = Shine
  • Seiketsu = Standardize
  • Shitsuke = Sustain

In the manufacturing environment, 5S is mostly used on a micro-level for teams and individual workplaces. However, this framework acts as a foundation on which organizations can implement other Lean manufacturing tools and techniques.

2. Kaizen: Continuous improvement

Kaizen is another popular lean framework that focuses on maintaining the current process and introducing small, meaningful changes in small increments. It values teamwork and has a proactive approach, which is a great fit for the manufacturing environment.

A feature that sets Kaizen apart from other Lean manufacturing tools and techniques is its dual nature. The framework has a philosophy and an action plan that go hand-in-hand. The philosophy part works on a macro level, where an engaging culture is developed to encourage the active participation of all employees in improving the entire workplace. The action plan targets specific weak areas in the company and focuses on them.

A typical Kaizen cycle has four phases (plan, perform, check, and act), where teams get to plan work on a certain goal, evaluate their performance, suggest improvements, and repeat the process.

3. Kanban

It’s a proven fact that the human brain can more easily comprehend information through visual aids. Kanban is a Lean manufacturing framework that implements the same ideology on a grander scale. A Kanban board is reactive and responds to the pull of demand’s invisible hand. A place for new inventory is only created when the previous inventory is moved out.

Kanban’s main focus is to smooth out the workflow by controlling three essential aspects of the manufacturing process. What is produced? What quantity? When? For this organized and highly regulated approach to work, Kanban places paramount importance on communication.

4. Just-in-time (JIT)

Just in Time works exactly how it sounds. It’s a popular Lean framework that eliminates the need to have a warehouse to store products or raw materials. Ideal for companies making customer-specific products, JIT pushes for the manufacturing of the product in the exact quantity as ordered. Everything needed arrives just in time for the manufacturing process to start.

5. Key Performance Indicators (KPI)

KPIs are powerful evaluation tools that allow companies to target the overall behavior of the workforce and measure their performance against their strategic plans. This Lean manufacturing framework is a perfect fit for various manufacturing setups but needs careful planning to be effective.

Common manufacturing KPIs target different aspects of a production line. For example, speed and count can help you analyze the production capacity. Similarly, you can evaluate your efficiency through downtime or Takt time. You can also use the reject ratio and other KPIs to reduce the amount of scrap in your production.

Conclusion

The Lean manufacturing tools and techniques that you can use will depend on the environment, applications, and several other factors. However, it is quite common for manufacturing units to use more than one lean framework at a time because all of them are interconnected.

The Lean philosophy identifies anything that does not add value to a system as waste and demands direct actions to eliminate it. While using any Lean manufacturing tools may not directly impact sustainability, all these frameworks can be leveraged to modify organizational behaviors and effectively introduce meaningful changes.

When your quality control process needs improvement, you’re wasting time and money. You are also putting future business at risk, and we know how small of an industry this can be. Dissatisfied customers tend to spread the word to their colleagues, which can hurt future sales. Recognize the warning signs and take action today by contacting Bluestreak | Bright AM.

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