lean“LEAN” is nothing but following simplified processes to perform and to get desired output.
But …..
Does in real everyday manufacturing this concept really works and yield expected results??!!!!

Is it much easier to follow the specified techniques of Lean and The organization will achieve expected results by just following Lean concepts??!! Does Lean manufacturing implies only to people who works in production lines?? Lean manufacturing results in reduction of resources [Especially Man]?? How an automated manufacturing unit can implement lean manufacturing method??

When we use the word Lean manufacturing thousands of such questions will arises in receiver’s mind. Does as stated Lean Manufacturing is really simple?? No, the question will lead to the history and origin of Lean concept. Lean manufacturing derived from the concept of “Toyota Production System [TPS] “, during period of World War II. TPS was framed on the basis of two elements Standardized work and Kaizen [Continuous improvement] and supported by two pillars JIT [Just In Time] & JIDOKA [Self Reliance]. From this stage to today many improvements were made in lean manufacturing and at present days lean is not only considered just as a method, but it is considered as a Philosophy.

The primary purpose Lean manufacturing is to satisfy and exceed customer expectation. What does customer expects?? It is very tough question to answer. But many philosophers, Guru’s considered concept “Customer is King”. Customer problems can be co-related with ICE BERG [We can only look at the surface level problems but there’ll be several submerged or hidden problems which exists]. Lean manufacturing tries to answer actual customer problems.

Second purpose is to attain Quality of the product, any product which we produce should be free of defects and Lean manufacturing focuses on defect free production system to achieve continuous high level Quality as specified by customer. Third purpose is to reduce lead time of the process, it results in increase in cash flows and increases flexibility to respond varied customer demands.

Last but not least, Lean encompasses on saving on resources, it aides to differentiate between “Values” and “Non Values” in process. For E.g.: Think of collecting print out paper from the printer. Our main purpose is to collect paper [Value], but the process involves getting out of the seat, move to printer, collect required paper and return to seat [Non Value]. Lean manufacturing helps us to reduce/eliminate these Non value added activities and increases the output of the process.

Key elements of Lean Manufacturing include, PDCA technique [Plan – Do – Check – Act], Empowering people [No need to reduce people], Eliminate waste [Consider working smart than working hard], Make process as simple and as visible as possible [easy to understand and identify problems], focus on built in quality [Defects should be identified at base & must not go to next process] and finally follow one piece flow and Pull System [Customer focused].

Lean manufacturing is not an individual activity, it is the activity which is performed by complete organization. From company head to company employees everybody will be involved in the process to achieve defined objective of the organization. It is not employee driven or management driven activity but it is organization driven activity. Lean manufacturing utilizes special tools and techniques during implementation. Most of these techniques are derived from Japanese terms, which got very simple meaning [E.g. Kaizen- Change for Better, Kanban – Signal Card]. Some of tools such as 5S [Sort, Straighten, Shine, Standardize and Sustain], 5 Why’s, SMED, Takt Time, Value Stream Mapping[VSM], Hoshin Kanri[Policy Deployment], Poka-Yoke, Andon, Visual Control and Visual Management, Gemba etc.

During lean implementation, small focus groups (Called as Kaizen groups) are formed and they are trained to identify the wastes in the production line [Wastes include T: Transportation, I: Inventory, M: Motion, W: Waiting, O: Over production, O: Over Processing, D: Defects (TIMWOOD)]. This group flows through the process line Called as Gemba Activity, Later the group will analyze root cause for these wastes and develop action plan [Time line] for continuous improvement. These activities require continuous support and motivation from management. Lean manufacturing do not bring drastic changes in the production line but over the period one can look for better results. It is also depends on continuous involvement of people. In Lean process defects or mistakes are considered as golden opportunities for continuous improvement. This lean process is a continuous PDCA activity.

Lean manufacturing also have many road blocks. As stated earlier it required involvement of complete organization and co-ordination between several departments. Sometimes process is too busy, resources are not available, no budget for special activities, poor management policies, not our job we’ll outsource to others etc. But a strong understanding of lean processes and driven by values will always yield better results.

Neha Sharma Neha Sharma (4 Posts)

MBA in Marketing from NDIM, Delhi, 5 years experience in Sales and Marketing. Passionate about process improvement & use of tools like Six Sigma for achieving business excellence


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