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4 Top Misconceptions on Lean Manufacturing

4 Top Misconceptions on Lean Manufacturing

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Is your manufacturing company Lean or thinking of implementing Lean principles?

A growing amount of manufacturers are embracing a culture of “Lean” methods; though, what is Lean manufacturing?Lean manufacturing is a set of principles, concepts and methods used to improve production systems on the shop floor. Essentially it is to create more value for customers while eliminating waste. Each step in a Lean production system has an identified value and steps are removed that do not create value.

Implementing Lean principles is becoming a hot topic among manufacturers; however, the Lean movement has encountered a number of misconceptions. Here is a list of the top four Lean misconceptions among manufacturing companies today:

Lean implementation is easy.
Lean manufacturing cannot be implemented over lunch, in an afternoon, or even in a day. Implementing Lean principles is an ongoing journey.

For example, Toyota Motors is infamous for being known as a Lean manufacturer, and many believe Toyota practices Lean principles better than anyone else. Toyota‘s culture involves continuous problem solving and addressing how the company develops with its people. Often results are not seen after many small steps, but after many cycles of planning-doing-checking-acting. Toyota began their Lean techniques more than 40 years ago, and they still say they are not done.

Working more with less.
One of the many misconceptions about Lean manufacturing is cost reduction. Therefore, when manufacturing employees learn that their company is going “Lean,” they often fear that layoffs are around-the-corner. However, Lean manufacturing is not a head-count reduction system; instead Lean manufacturers understand employees on the shop floor know their work best. Lean manufacturers don’t want employees to work harder, or faster – they want employees to work more efficiently.

Resultantly, Lean manufacturing focuses on improving employees, providing more value to the workforce, and, overall, establishing a dependable and stable workforce. For example, Lean manufacturers work with employees to develop problem-solving skills, and provide employees a more active role in the decision-making processes so workflow is streamlined and improved. Together, project leaders and employees evaluate results and provide feedback. Ultimately, properly implemented Lean processes lead to career enhancement, engaged employees, and happy workplaces.

Eliminating software.
The fundamental principle of Lean manufacturing is to design a simple manufacturing system, however, that does not mean eliminating software. There is always room for improvement.

Enterprise resource planning (ERP) software solutions provide complete functionality to establish and execute all Lean processes. For example, ERP software increases on-time delivery, provides methods for calculating quantities based on order history, and improves performance by building quality procedures into every activity.

No inventory.
Lean manufacturing methods involve producing what is needed by the next operation and targets eliminating wastes. Types of waste include:

  • Transport: Carrying unnecessary products or moving products that do not require processing.
  • Inventory: Having finished products that have not yet been processed.
  • Motion: Employees or machines are performing extra processes between steps.
  • Waiting: Time between production steps, including delays, interruptions or shift changes.
  • Overproduction: Having inventory ahead of demand.
  • Over processing: Over processing is a direct result from poor tool or design activities.
  • Defects: The time and effort involved in inspecting for and fixing product and machine defects.

Therefore, inventory is contingent on demand-based manufacturing. Benefits of demand-based manufacturing include shorter cycle times and less back-stock inventory.

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