The Key Lean Manufacturing Principles

Kaizen – a Japanese term,(constant process focus on getting better) is at the very heart of Lean Manufacturing. Lean Manufacturing can be helpful in many processes throughout your business, including BOTH manufacturing and transactional processes. Some, any or all of the processes involved in your business can be included in your Lean Manufacturing deployment and initiatives. The key lean manufacturing principles can be identified as:

• Getting it right the first time with no defects identifying and solving problems from the source,

quickly and as they happen

• Non-value added elimination and optimizing all resources at your disposal

• Kaizen or on-going CI or Continuous improvement as it is also known, keeping on raising the bar of performance and excellence in your business.

This can be done through Lean Manufacturing focusing in on reducing costs, improving quality, increasing productivity and better information sharing, streamlined operations and great teamwork, focused, targeted process improvement.

• Customer-demand drives activity in a pull NOT push system and inventory, wait times etc., effectively trimmed and cut down (even eliminated where possible).

• Adaptability, agility and flexibility efficient, quick without giving up on quality.

• Extending these efficiencies and efforts to your supply chain and other business partnerships in a collaborative effort, building relationships that fit, work and last.

It is like having a recipe for success to success in the new global, fast-paced, technology enabled and driven, highly competitive marketplace and economy. Using the Lean Manufacturing way and tools better enables and empowers you and your business to not only succeed in this environment, but flourish and thrive!

Its history and future is built on the premise that wasted, time, space, energy, effort, money and poor quality all cost money and should be made visible, dealt with and Lean is basically all about getting the right things, to the right place, at the right time, in the right quantity while minimizing waste and being flexible and open to change.

Working quicker with less effort and waste, being efficient, consistent and with the minimum amount of waste, unnecessary movement, cost and time, Lean Manufacturing quickly sets you up for success and business improvement. It is about more than merely focusing on manufacturing processes. There is more to the philosophy and methodology than meets the eye.

Think of innovative ways to cut costs in your business and operation without risk to quality and customer. Eliminate and trim unnecessary process steps, cheaper alternatives or costly extras that are not really deemed necessary. Shared utility or tools are a great way to minimize expenses, set-up and overall costs. Make the most the resources that you do have available.

Take a closer look at the materials and processes you and your team use everyday and try to spot the as is process. Do a reality check. See the costs and waste, put metrics to things, raise awareness of what could be done differently, more effectively and cheaper. Sometimes process steps can be eliminated or combined to get to a result quicker and use resources, time, quality better.

Standardization goes a long way to cut down on waste. Tweaking and adjusting machines for no apparent reason other than routine and habit should be stopped and taken a close look at. Reuse, reduce, recycle comes into play. More effective materials and process steps that take less time will often help your business out too.

How technology, automation, outsourcing etc. can save you and your customers some time and money. Taking actions to correct certain aspects within your business, rid it of waste, expense and streamline processes for optimal function and ultimate success is what Lean Manufacturing is all about.

Learning by doing and hands-on involvement is a great byproduct and enabler of these processes and initiatives. It engages and energizes. It sparks interest and builds involvement and action. Make changes, review the results and adapt if necessary, celebrating your success, looking for new opportunity summarizes this ongoing cycle well.

Here is an easy way to remember some of the fundamental practical things you can do right away in your business, applying Lean Manufacturing tools:

Kai-Zen or ‘change for the better’ is the mantra for Lean Manufacturing. It is on-going and not once-off! A process in itself! By effectively focusing on improving the efficiency of any underlying processes, improving performance, you will reap the financial rewards. It is like having measure and ‘proof’ of your success. Bringing science, intuitive and creative problem-solving, analysis and scrutiny to business processes you increase the handle you have on the unfolding events, steps and outcome.

It drives the performance excellence of your business to new heights. Lean Manufacturing will get you there. Combining this approach with the discipline and rigor of process management and business process improvement tools like Six Sigma, increases the impact and effectiveness. Three pillars of strength for both these business approaches are:

customer focus, centric and directed activity, value add process and outcome

Effectiveness (iii) Efficiency.


C – Cleanup

A – Arranging

N – Neatness

D – Discipline

O – Ongoing Michigan Electrical License Search improvement

Giving customers EXACTLY and MORE than they wanted, exceeding expectations are important. What is your niche and specialty that makes you stand out from the crowd? Again some self-diagnostics from the Lean Manufacturing toolkit to help you out here regarding assessing your own business and readiness:

READ  The Advantages of Using Stretch Machines

• How can Lean Manufacturing help you establish, identify and communicate that competitive edge to your business employees, partners and customers?

• How successful are your products and services in securing ‘clients for life’ and repeat business? How strong is your brand?

• How do you currently minimize costs, cut expenses and deal with waste?

Another important concept in Lean Manufacturing to grasp, understand and utilize is KANBAN (another Japanese-inspired term). Lean Manufacturing or just-in-time manufacturing, on-demand production, meaning sign or card. Signals or visual cues are used, when products, parts or services are required by customers. The system is reactive and takes advantage of the ‘flow’ concept. On demand solutions for operations, production lines and manufacturing facilities are suggested and preferred, due to the fact that having inventory pile up costs money, time and quality, better spent elsewhere.

Yet another essential Lean Manufacturing tool and utility to consider is something referred to as Total Productive Maintenance. This is different from routine or occasional maintenance that has to be performed. Having no downtime and scheduled maintenance, pro-active planning for and working with it, as opposed to a more passive-responsive approach is recommended in the Lean Manufacturing philosophy and practical application.

It is often depicted as “deterioration prevention”It is NOT FIXING MACHINES WHEN/IF THEY BREAK DOWN. There is more here than meets the eye. Equipment must be ready at any and all time for operation. The equipment should be able to provide us with efficiency on demand while running and provide quality service and output that can be relied upon.

Overall Equipment Effectiveness (OEE) Up-time and and throughput are the three key metrics we use to track and gauge how the maintenance tasks are going and what should be done, when and next to keep them all humming and working effortlessly, seamlessly individually and together.

Mistake-proofing is important too, reducing the variability and increasing the process capability, the ‘baseline’ and means to and end (namely the machines and operation overall) have to be well taken care of.

So, we have provided numerous examples and reasoning for why Lean Manufacturing will be good for your business, regards less of size, developmental phase, partners, customers, size or current level of performance. There tools can help you move your business forward.

An underestimated factor in all Lean Manufacturing deployments is the underutilized talents of our collective and collaborative potential. We oftentimes get so busy with what each of us are doing individually, that we lose sight of how much more powerful we could be, if we combined our efforts!

In our opinion, here-in lies the secret of Lean Manufacturing. We have to give everyone the opportunity Resale Price Maintenance to partake and participate, share in the experience and undertaking for maximum results!

Ask yourself how you can make the most of people’s time and investment in CI or Lean Manufacturing practices and how it will/call affect/benefit your business? Your resources, employees and customers are important assets – how are you using and utilizing them all in this process of becoming a more agile and cost-effective organization/business/operation? Always, start by asking what can I do? This personal handsome approach can truly make a difference in any business.

Ways to avoid your Lean Manufacturing initiatives to be stymied and frustrating, fail or come up short:

• Pay special and close attention to what the business culture really is! It could be totally out of alignment with the principles and fundamentals of Lean Manufacturing and cause some stress, tensions, or even resistance within and throughout the organization.

• Ask and answer yourself/your team, your business, partners and customer honestly what the existing climate is that would support (hinder/help) Lean working methods and how it will benefit all stakeholders?

• Here is another useful question: Is our organization hierarchical, rigid and autocratic and not a people centered company?

• Learning what not to do from the mistakes and discoveries, shared learning and insights from others is critical.

• Be aware that not everyone will necessarily share your enthusiasm for Lean Manufacturing. Some might dread what it does to their work load and world. Some initial resistance to any change is normal. Showing the value or the WIIFM (what is in it for me) is a very important part of the whole Lean Manufacturing initiative.

Here are TEN easy tips of how to enable Lean Manufacturing in your organization:


• Talk and inform often

• Educate and empower, knowledge, skill, practice and competence, on-going mastery and teaching others

• Trust, honesty and information = transparency

• Give everyone a head start, a common language, goal and purpose and unleash the power of lean on your organization.


• Get everyone engaged, excited and hands-on, involved and aboard with your Lean Manufacturing initiative and plans

• Introduce feedback and coaching, establishing communication channels where before they might have been none.

READ  Manufacturing IT Support and Solutions


• Set communication and information sharing, learning and openness (transparency) as an organizational priority.

• Less people will feel threatened and insecure about speaking up, hiding errors for fear of embarrassment or consequences (like being held accountable or losing their jobs or face in front of others)

• Treat each other with respect and share ideas, issues openly, always keeping in mind the overall benefit (or detriment) for all if closer attention are paid to certain issues or challenges at hand.


• Select examples of great achievement with Lean Manufacturing, samples, project studies, specifics, general, share and celebrate them all-round. Give credit and recognition to the team where it is due, even for accomplishments that made a great difference for the company, a specific area or problem that was solved. It is highly motivational and quite an incentive for many to keep trying and even do more!


Formalized record and tracking is essential for these Lean Manufacturing processes and initiative to WORK and LAST! Ensure they are streamline and purposeful, organized and regularly occur.


• It sounds easy enough, but believe me, we get sidetracked so easily in the intricacies of calculations, metrics and spreadsheets, that we often forget the pleasantries and clarity that simplicity brings.

• Making things easy to follow and stick to, will help that they do exactly that!


• Be always focusing on needs, wants, desires and motivations, to mobilize and sustain momentum and change.

• Make the stake and reward personal for participating and applying the principles of Lean Manufacturing.

• Make it the way that you do business – WITHOUT COMPROMISE!

• Set the bar and standards high, keeping on reaching higher.


• consistent, persistent, determined, dedicated to make things work, better and last! Low cost, no waste, effective and efficient!

A CONTINUING JOURNEY (not only a destination)

• Ongoing Learning is essential and learning from our mistakes, oversights, challenges and achievements are important.

• Always ask what we learned, what went well, what did not work and how can we make it all better next time round, should be part of normal conversation and routine.

Always remember, despite what you read or hear from consultants, there is NO ONE-SIZE FITS ALL Lean Manufacturing deployment that works and fits for everyone. It depends on the organization, leadership, dynamics etc. MUCH has been written about lean manufacturing (see reference listing for an eclectic sampling of some recent books and classics on the topic). Practical information on how to implement lean, especially in small business is hard to come by.

Tapping into the expertise of those who have, You will discover more secrets and revelations, unearth more truths about Lean Manufacturing as you go along. Be sure to pass on the wisdom to others. Thread along this path is a great way to discover the secrets and pitfalls, mistakes to avoid when considering Lean Manufacturing for your business/organization.

Start by asking yourself what the current readiness and knowledge levels regarding LEAN would be? Close to most of us have heard about lean manufacturing at some point in time, we are just not sure even how much or little we really know until you start getting into it! For some lean thinking comes naturally, for others a little more rigor and discipline is required to effect and impact business processes and ensuing success.

Are you doing something currently (like Lean Manufacturing) to cut down on waste, scrap or unnecessary costs? Typically less than 50% of companies will still be in the running here. Do you consider your lean manufacturing processes a roaring success? Less than 5-10% will respond with affirmation and agreement here! There is always room for improvement in any business.

Lean Manufacturing provides us with the tools and means, channels and connections to plan, execute and sustain these changes to benefit our profit and bottom line. Always remember that You can not do everything yourself or quickly necessarily. You need the combined efforts, buy-in, support and infrastructure to get things done and it may take longer than expected initially or overall, BUT STICK WITH IT!

Lean Manufacturing is an on-going journey and NOT a ‘quick-fix’ for business woes! Although some of the tools and applications will start providing you with immediate reward and benefit that is measurably making a difference. It is not successful as a project here and there or uncoordinated strategy, shooting from the hip, when we feel like it type of approach.

Dedicated time and resources, focused and targeted effort will benefit your Lean Manufacturing initiative tremendously. SHIFT YOUR FOCUS MORE LONG-TERM and step out of the day-to-day fire-fighting and reduced focus we so typically have in our organizations, dealing with one problem at a time, as they come up and not following a very effective strategy overall or at all.

READ  What the Hell Is Cloud Manufacturing?

Lean Manufacturing is about more than tools, counter-intuitive thinking and application to manufacturing and transactional processes! It is about the people involved in, touched by, working with and through these processes and outcomes, to IMPROVE and SUSTAIN business success and growth.

Someone once quipped that lean is not about what you see, but comes from what you think. The impetus and motivation starts early and it starts with each of us. Engage and enable the minds and hearts of your people and mobilize your organization, taking it to new heights of performance excellence and increasing bottom line profit.

Tap into the collective talents within your organization, more organic, lead by example and emphasize that this is NOT A PROGRAM (with a start and finish). This is an initiative that will continue, grow and expand FOREVER, from here on forward.

Things can not and will not stay the same with Lean Manufacturing – that is the one guarantee. Skill-building, training, knowledge-application,,refinement and mastery will come over time. There will be learning curves (steep sometimes at the beginning), no recipe BUT a ROADMAP (general ideas and suggestions, like we mentioned in this book) to follow to great, proven success.

In the lean manufacturing toolbox it is not about how many tools or which ones you have, chosen or are/will be using but how you unleash, utilize and leverage them!

We have covered a few key tools to get you started, there are myriads of Lean Manufacturing tools available and it will take time to develop your competency and mastery over time of any, some or all of these as part of your overall strategy of getting better as a business or organization: Jidoka, kaizen, and, kanban, SMED, visual management, 5S, 5 Whys are all examples of lean tools that you can use.

It all starts with how we think about things and the shift that we have to make in our minds from conventional, traditional and current ways we are doing things, what works, what does not?

Lean Manufacturing starts with each of us and a willingness to be open-minded, see, discover and harness the potential savings, cost and waste reduction opportunities within and across our organization and levels, business partners and even customers to all become more successful and better (even BEST) at what we do, at the lowest possible cost, without sacrificing quality.

Here is an example of what we mean. Mastering a tool like the 5S (reducing waste or MUDA), you could go around cleaning up basically, without a detailed understanding or internalizing the ability to immediately identify problems to no advanded Lean Manufacturing Tool will help us do that and come magically to the rescue as a ‘silver bullet’.

Enable quick responses. What then would be the purpose? See the difference? For those of us who would want to learn more about Lean Manufacturing and the tools that can be leveraged, laws of lean that can be applied with great success in your business, consider the four laws of Lean Manufacturing as laid out and adapted from Bowen and Spears’ in “Decoding the DNA of the Toyota Production System” (Harvard Business Review, Nov. 1999). Space eludes us to elaborate too much on this.

In Kanban for example, it is not about the visual cue or tool as much, as understanding the logic and importance of upstream and downstream process, flow and the for operation and customer!

Daily Decision-making, problem-solving and managing will be affected and enabled by this type of thinking and very soon it will be about so much more than mere application of tools on a couple of projects. It will change the way you think about and do business moving forward, forever!

A Lean Manufacturing Toolbox Overview

A quick summary is provided here of some of the most basic Lean Manufacturing ‘tools’ to get you off to a good start. They are: Lean is not about what you see; lean is about how you think.


• Sift, Sweep, Sort, Sanitize and Sustain

• Helps organize what’s needed and eliminate what’s not, allowing the organization to identify problems quickly.

5 Whys

• Problem-solving by asking why the problem occurred, then why that cause occurred

• Repeating the process five times until you get to the main or ‘root’ cause of a problem.


• Operator pulls a cord that triggers a horn and light, which tells the team leader or supervisor that he or she needs help or support.

• Keep production moving and catching problems early Jidoka

• Autonomation or people identifying problems either stopping for correction or self-correcting PRIOR to proceeding or moving on to the next step.


• A structured ongoing process

• Engage those closest to the process

• Improve both the effectiveness and efficiency of the process

• Remove waste and add standardization.


• A signal or card system that a downstream (customer) process can use

• Optimized to request a specific amount of a specific part from the upstream (supply) process.

SMED–Single-Minute Exchange of Die

Visual management

• manage every aspect of the process at a glance, using visual data, signals and guides.