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Lean Manufacturing Principles


Lean Concepts

Lean Concepts or Lean Manufacturing is a systematic methodology that identifies and eliminates all types of waste or non-value-added activities; not only in production or manufacturing operations, but in the service industry as well. Whether you are manufacturing a product or providing a service, there are components that are considered “waste”. Lean concepts are purely about creating more value for customers by eliminating activities that are considered waste. Any activity or process that consumes resources, adds cost or time without creating value becomes the target for elimination.

Lean focuses on the “big picture” or improvements in the entire business process as opposed to incremental improvements. It is the business process system that can significantly improve a company’s profitability.

Lean concepts improve operating performance by focusing on the continuous flow of products, materials or services through the value stream. To achieve this, the various forms of waste must be identified and eliminated. Waste can include any activity, step or process that does not add value for the customer.

Lean Manufacturing, sometimes also referred to as the Toyota Production System, is about the systematic elimination of waste.

The Toyota Production system identifies seven major forms of waste. They are:

Waste from Overproduction — producing more than is required by the customer or marketplace which generates unnecessary inventory.

Waste from Transportation — multiple handling or movement of products does not add any value to the product.

Waste of Motion — of the workers, machines, and handling. Searching for tools or parts due to the inappropriate location of these items is considered waste of motion.

Waiting — a worker waiting for a machine to finish a cycle, waiting for a supervisor to answer a question, or waiting for information or materials reflects an interruption to flow and need to be eliminated.

Processing — unnecessary processing steps should be eliminated. Combine steps where possible.

Inventory — or Work In Process (WIP) is material between operations as a result of large lot production or processes with long cycle times. This reflects system problems.

Defects — producing defective products is pure waste. Prevent the occurrence of defects instead of scrapping or repairing.

Standardized Work

Standardized Work

A Standard is an established criterion that an actual result can be measured against.

Standardized Work is a “best practice” set of work procedures or instructions that develop the best and most consistent methods and sequences of work for each job or process. Standardized work helps form the baseline for continuous improvement.

To be effective, processes must be standardized and controlled. Standardized work eliminates operator inconsistency or variability from the process, improving process control. Simply stated the process or job should be performed the same way every time by every worker.

Industrial or Manufacturing Engineers break down each task/operation into small pieces, making certain that each worker is given all the tools and equipment to perform the operation or job in a timely and efficient manner ensuring the highest quality.

Standardized work uses documented standard work practices, featuring details of the right methods, parts and tools for every procedure using pictures or drawings. Sometimes these work practices are supplemented with videos or computer-based programs, which enable workers to thoroughly study the details of the procedure.

Standardized Work consists of three elements:

Takt time — the time needed to produce a product at a rate equal to the requirement of sales. Takt time is calculated by dividing the day’s operating time by the number of products required. Example: If the customer requires 100 units per day and total daily operating time is 450 minutes, then the takt time is 4.5 minutes. This means the plant must produce one unit every 4.5 minutes.

Standardized work sequence — the sequence or order in which work is performed in a process. Without standardized work individuals develop their own methods as they see fit. Process cycle times can fluctuate, scrap or rework can increase, and safety and ergonomic standards may be overlooked.

Standard in-process inventory — the minimum number of parts required to keep a cell or process moving.

Benefits of Standardized Work

  • Every operation or process is performed using the best method
  • Ensures process stability
  • Helps to eliminate waste or non-value added activities
  • Increases productivity
  • Fosters continuous improvement


Based on Japanese words that begin with the letter “S”, the 5S philosophy focuses on a system of practices used to create a workplace suited for visual control and lean production. 5S simplifies the work environment, produces effective work place organization and standardized work procedures, reduces waste and non-value activity while improving quality, efficiency and safety.

Principles of 5S

Sort: (Seiri) the first “S” focuses on eliminating unnecessary items from the workplace. Sorting keeps necessary work items in the work area. Infrequently used items are moved to an organized storage location outside of the work area, while unneeded items are discarded. Seiri fights the habit to keep things because they may be useful someday. Seiri helps to keep the work area neat and organized. Seiri is also an excellent way to gain valuable floor space and eliminate old broken tools, obsolete jigs and fixtures, scrap, and excess raw material. The Sort process also helps prevent the “just-in-case” job mindset.

Set In Order: (Seiton) is the second “S” and focuses on efficient and effective storage methods. You must ask these questions:

  1. What do I need to do my job?
  2. Where should I locate this item?
  3. How many of this item do I really need?

Strategies for effective Set In Order are: painting floors, outlining work areas and locations, shadow boards, and modular shelving and cabinets for needed items such as trash cans, brooms, mops and buckets. “A place for everything and everything in its place.”

Shine: (Seiso) Once the clutter and unnecessary items have been eliminated, the next step is to thoroughly clean the work area. Daily follow-up cleaning is necessary in order to sustain this improvement. Workers take pride in a clean and clutter-free work area and the Shine step helps to create ownership in the equipment and facility.

Standardize: (Seiketsu) Once the first three S’s have been implemented, the next step is to concentrate on standardizing “best practice” in the work area. Employees should participate in the development of such standards — they are a valuable but often overlooked source of information regarding their work.

Sustain: (Shitsuke) This is by far the most difficult “S” to implement and achieve. Human nature is to resist change. More than a few organizations have found themselves with a dirty, cluttered shop a few months following their 5S implementation. The tendency is to return to the status quo and the comfort zone of the “old way” of doing things. Sustain focuses on defining a new status quo and standard of work place organization. Once fully implemented, the 5S process can increase morale, create positive impressions on customers, and increase efficiency and organization. The 5S Visual Workplace pays for itself in the time and money saved hunting for necessary supplies, tools, and equipment. The 5S system will give benefits that are quickly visible in the workspace and the bottom line.

5S Produces Visible Results

  • Increases productivity
  • Reduces lead times
  • Reduces waste in materials, space and time
  • Reduces changeover time
  • Improves safety