Lean is not just the latest management buzzword or a marketing term. Nor is it a fad that’s going to fade away. Lean is a proven process improvement methodology that can be applied anywhere, though it started with lean manufacturing. Lean manufacturing has displaced the emphasis on perfection in Six Sigma because of its many benefits for organizations of all sizes. Let’s take a look at the ways lean manufacturing can improve your business.
Lean manufacturing is all about efficiency, and limiting waste in all its forms, including in your processes. You want to reduce both material and labor waste, and be able to do more with less. Here are some of the main benefits of going lean:
- Faster cycle-times
- Greater flexibility
- Improved quality
- Lower overall costs
- Greener operations
At the end of the day, lean is all about removing anything that doesn’t add value, and meeting production targets as fast as possible while removing barriers. Now that we know more about lean, let’s look at each of the benefits of lean in greater detail.
Lean processes are those that minimize materials, labor and process steps. By eliminating wasted steps and optimizing production and service processes, you generally get faster cycle times. This may reduce the time it takes to build a house or aircraft by days, or it may shave minutes off the production cycle for parts or the time to complete a financial transaction. The end result is greater throughput.
Lean manufacturing is not something you can master by reading a reference book. Earning a lean certification is one option. You’ll learn even more by earning a master of science lean manufacturing degree. A master’s degree is not just a universally recognized credential in lean engineering; it is an opportunity to learn how to apply lean concepts to healthcare, supply chain or the service industry.
Here are some of the things that you’ll learn in a lean master’s program:
- Work analysis for lean production
- The metrics for lean
- Six Sigma for manufacturing
- The theory of constraints/resource allocation
- Quality assurance
This knowledge base allows you to measure the current state of operations. It also teaches you how to decide where to make strategic improvements in your business operations.
If you already have a foundation, and want to further your education without leaving your position, one of the options is getting your master’s degree online. Institutions like Kettering University have a master’s degree that you can complete in as little as a year. If you want to learn more about their program and what it has to offer, you can visit https://online.kettering.edu/programs/masters/lean-manufacturing-masters-online.
Lean manufacturing gives organizations greater overall flexibility. It allows businesses to set up simplified manufacturing flows that are easy to automate and upgrade. Lean manufacturing principles can be implemented in job shops and other flexible manufacturing systems. Lean system design may support greater flexibility, such as setting up packaging and customization operations at the end of an assembly line.
Lean manufacturing often results in purchased subassemblies instead of making them in-house. Then you don’t have to make them yourself, and the overall quality level improves. Simpler processes improve quality in service-oriented processes as well. When there are fewer steps required to do it right, your team is more likely to do it right every time. There’s less room for confusion, and they’re less likely to forget a critical step.
Lean manufacturing tends to lower your overall costs. By only ordering what you need when you need it, you don’t have to pay to store raw materials that you may not use. You don’t make items for which there is no demand. In these cases, you either have to sell items at a loss or increase costs of items shipped to market to offset the loss.
If you implement 5S principles as part of your lean initiative, you could improve workplace safety and lower your insurance costs and reduce missed work days due to injuries, too. As a matter of fact, Virginia Mason Medical center was the first of its kind to implement lean manufacturing principles to improve patient safety. By doing so, they were not only able to reduce patient injury, but save up to 15 million dollars in the process.
According Art Byrne, author of the book The Lean Turnaround, the cost benefits go much deeper than that:
“Lean principles can be applied in virtually any type of company.” He said. “It can improve almost every aspect of your operation, whether it’s accounting, payroll issues, or the training of employees.”
If you simplify your processes, you’ll eliminate unnecessary steps. This includes unnecessary processing and unneeded transportation. This may reduce how often you have to ship items between the warehouse and the factory. You might waste less material because machining processes are tailored to minimize waste or recycle it instead of disposing of it. Your shipping department might use less material to package and tape up boxes.