What Is Lean Production And How Could It Benefit You?

It’s a perennial problem for manufacturers. How do you reduce waste as far as possible? Waste can never be eliminated - it is part and parcel of producing anything. But it shouldn’t unnecessarily impact the environment or prove detrimental to your team’s productivity. Thankfully, there has been a concerted effort among manufacturers to implement what is known as ‘lean production’. It could help your business considerably.



What is lean production?

The main objective of lean production is to reduce waste as far as possible. It consists of a set of techniques and tools that are designed to streamline any manufacturer’s processes.

Lean production can be traced back to the Toyota Production System (TPS), which, contrary to our earlier suggestion, aims to eliminate waste. Sometimes referred to as ‘just-in-time’ production, TPS relies on automation “with a human touch”.

So, how could it benefit your operation?



Rigorous problem-solving

If there’s one thing that all great manufacturers share, it’s their brilliant problem-solving ability. The great thing about lean production is that it forces you into that mindset. Rather than looking at the first problem or challenge within the production line, you’re encouraged to dig far deeper. What is the root cause? How can it be fixed and then standardised for the future? More importantly, once you discover that root cause, the solution can be shared among the team to further their development, too.



The Seven Wastes

This is where it gets pretty interesting. Did you know there are seven common areas in which waste can occur in manufacturing? It’s more than you think, right? But these are the areas where you’re likely losing time and effort without realising:

  • over-production.
  • inventory.
  • motion.
  • defects.
  • over-processing.
  • waiting.
  • transport.

The best thing about the Seven Wastes is that it’s pretty easy to identify where your problems might lie. For instance, how many product defects do you experience on a monthly basis? Has that number been rising? Similarly, is a drive to fulfil orders that fall through or never come off resulting in over-production?


Visual management

Sometimes referred to as the ‘5S’, or ‘Five S’, this is a Japanese term which refers to five lean manufacturing processes.

They are:

  • Sort: Keep only the essential items and materials needed to complete tasks.
  • Set in Order: Ensure all items have a designated place and are organised in a logical way for workers to use.
  • Shine: Keep workspaces clean and orderly to enable purpose-driven work.
  • Standardise: Create a set of standards that are adhered to by the entire organisation.
  • Sustain: All Ss in this list must be continued over time and developed as the business grows.

Put simply, if you implement the 5Ss, you’ll end up with a workplace that functions far more efficiently simply because it’s an easier place in which to work.



Reducing batch quantity

This is one of the simplest strategies for lean production but one that is so easily overlooked.

By reducing your batch quantities, you’ll reduce the lead time before each customer receives their products. This is because they’ll no longer have to wait for extra products to be manufactured. It also ensures that you’ll set up the steps required to reduce that lead time and, in turn, operate on a far leaner basis.



Red bins for quality

Manufacturers always strive for quality within their processes, but it’s not an easy thing to achieve at scale - or consistently.

However, a simple technique could save the day. By using red bins for defects and ensuring they only reside in those bins, you’ll be able to identify defects more easily and work as a team to resolve them in the long term.



If we’ve sparked any questions today, don’t forget you can contact the Flowdrill team directly - we’d love to hear from you.

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