The lean manufacturing methodology involves minimizing waste as much as possible while, at the same time, maximizing productivity. As the name suggests, it is typically employed within manufacturing systems. “Waste” in this context is anything that doesn’t add value to the product and that customers are not willing to pay for.
There are many benefits to employing lean manufacturing, including reduced operating costs and lead times, as well as improved product quality. Also called “lean production” or simply “lean,” the approach is employed by organizations across various fields, including well-known brands like Toyota and Nike.
Lean manufacturing is based on the Toyota Production System, which is still in place today. Several underlying principles have also come to inform the evolved definition of lean manufacturing, including just-in-time, jidoka, kaizen, and the scientific method.
Since its introduction in the 1930s, lean manufacturing has continuously influenced manufacturing concepts around the globe, even outside manufacturing. Today, even organizations in the software, healthcare, service, and development industries use the lean methodology.
Five key areas of lean manufacturing
A lean manufacturing process optimizes five key areas, regardless of industry and organization:
- Value: Identifying what customers consider valuable is necessary to determine how much waste can be eliminated within the manufacturing (or other) processes
- Value Stream: After identifying value, manufacturers can then assess existing processes to pinpoint specific value-adding and wasteful elements accordingly
- Flow: The smooth movement of products between process steps is essential, which means bottlenecks and intermediate inventory must be addressed immediately
- Pull: A pull system that produces orders according to demand (instead of producing in anticipation of such) is a core principle of lean manufacturing. This enables increased efficiency
- Perfection: Lean manufacturing is hinged on continuous improvement to keep processes efficient and optimal
The importance of lean manufacturing software
When lean manufacturing was first introduced, manufacturing environments were understandably much simpler than the ones we have today. Modern factory floors today can be very difficult to whip into shape with lean manufacturing procedures without powerful lean manufacturing software that can handle data and effectively optimize procedures.
The convergence of lean methodology and industry 4.0 technology (think data, analytics, connectivity, and AI) has ushered in the era of lean manufacturing 4.0, a new approach that combines just-in-time manufacturing, waste reduction, and the use of lean management software.
Perhaps one of the biggest pain points when implementing lean manufacturing is production scheduling, as the reduction of inventory and incredibly efficient resource use often leaves little room for adjustment. This is where lean manufacturing software comes in, as it can provide the required versatility that comes with production planning and scheduling.
In lean manufacturing 4.0, real-time information and production planning can come together to adopt all the key principles of lean methodology. This allows factory floors to remain agile when responding to changes and continue to reap the benefits of lean manufacturing without the risk of human errors and delays typical of manual monitoring and tracking procedures.