Lean Manufacturing

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 place.

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.


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