Much of lean manufacturing's terminology came from Taiichi
Ohno's Toyota production system - 5S, kaizen, kanban, and
just-in-time (JIT). However, if you want lean manufacturing
explained, look only as far as basic industrial engineering.
The production system called just-in-time manufacturing (or
the kanban system) is all about reducing work-in-process inventory
and integrating the material supply chain.
Kaizen is a continuous improvement process. Small improvements
are made often, wherever opportunities are found for bettering
quality and productivity. Team involvement is important to
continuous process improvement, and lean manufacturing training
makes teams more effective.
5S is based on five Japanese words that translate roughly
to workplace organization (sort, straighten, shine, standardize,
and sustain) - a place for everything, and everything in its
In a lean production system, maintenance is not about fighting
fires, however. Practice shifts to a preventative maintenance
program, sometimes called total productive maintenance (TPM).
With preventative maintenance, machines and equipment are
kept in top condition.
Satisfying customer demand without excessive inventory calls
for strict attention to cycle time reduction and throughput.
Any waste or activity that does not add value to the product
is eliminated. Improving throughput involves value stream
mapping, where a process flow diagram is made, material flow
is analyzed, and the production system reengineered.
Lean manufacturing has shown its worth in companies that
have adopted it, but it requires follow-through. Commitment
from the shop floor to the top floor is essential, and learning
is a never-ending process.