While every business has a different set of products or services they produce, they are all really looking for the same thing. Profit is the motivating force behind every successful business, which is why they are always looking for ways to improve product and reduce waste. Lean manufacturing has helped many companies implement successful cost-cutting measures which can help eliminate waste while improving the service.
All facilities which produce any type of good or service have two main ways they can improve their profit margin. They can cut the costs associated with producing their goods, or they can increase the amount they can charge for the product. Lean strategies focus primarily on cutting the costs, but in some cases they can also take steps which will permit the company to be able to charge higher rates as well.
Lean manufacturing concepts have been around for generations, but the specific methodology used today is a recent innovation. Anything that helps a company eliminate waste, in all its forms, can be considered to be a lean technique. The lean manufacturing concepts people use today are an innovation from Toyota which developed the philosophy that focused on eliminating three types of inefficiencies, or waste.
- Non-Value Adding Work
- Overburdening of Workers
- Unevenness in Productivity over Time
Each of these items contributed waste in one form or another, and the further they can be reduced the more efficiently a facility will run. While it is nearly impossible to eliminate all waste from a facility, that should always be the goal in any lean initiative.
When learning about what lean is and how it works there are five main principals which are essential for discovering waste and attempting to eliminate it. These principles are:
- Identify Value – What is the value that a customer sees in each product, and each step in creating the product?
- Map the Value Stream – Identify each step in the creation of a product, eliminating any steps which are not providing value to the customer.
- Create Flow – Ensure that all value-creating steps are done in a sequence so that the product flows smoothly toward the customer.
- Establish Pull – The customer should be pulling the product through, with value being added at each step.
- Seek Perfection – Identify all areas where value are added and seek ways to increase the value. Identify all steps which produce little or no value and reduce them. This should be an ongoing process.
These principles work in a circular method which can be repeated over and over in an attempt to constantly improve the way a facility works. Ongoing improvement throughout the process is one of the keys to any successful lean strategies. Eliminating waste and increasing efficiency is essential to running a lean facility. One important thing to keep in mind is that lean strategies are not something that can be implemented and then forgotten. They are a process of ongoing improvement, and any time a facility believes they have completed the process it should be looked at closer to identify where waste still exists.