Top 8 Lean Manufacturing Tools [Part 1]

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Adding value. That’s what manufacturing is all about. When we manufacture a product, we’re adding value to the lives of each of our customers. From captive screws to capacitors, television screens to automobile seats, lean manufacturing and design helps us as manufacturers to also bring that intrinsic value to our production and supply chains through sustainability and capital efficiency.

Optimizing our manufacturing methods is an iterative process that is specific to our needs; no one project is precisely identical to the next. Complex dynamics and variables keep us focused and flexible, but with an emphasis on lean manufacturing and design, we can give priority to improvement and refinement, thus achieving higher levels of efficiency.

The following four steps – with four more to follow next week -- will help you mitigate waste within your manufacturing process, maximizing scalability, value streams, and system functionality.


Also referred to as the "Kanban System," Just-In-Time methodology focuses on producing products only in the quantities desired by consumers, when those quantities are required by consumers, and in the specific quantities necessary to satisfy consumer demand.  

As a manufacturer, getting your products to market on time is critical. The Just-In-Time approach increases your production responsibility, productivity, and consistency, helping mitigate lost-time deliveries or even fines imposed by delivery delays. Moreover, using the Just-In-Time approach also reduces storage space expenditure as inventory levels typically remain low when the process is implemented effectively.  

Read more about getting your products to market faster now

Bottleneck Analysis

The Theory of Constraints states, “A chain is no stronger than its weakest link.” Identifying constraints within manageable systems is paramount for manufacturers; Bottlenecks reduce supply chain throughput, thus reducing capital gains and negatively affecting productivity.

In analyzing the source and impact of any particular constraint, we move closer toward achieving maximum production value and ultimately, we adequately allocate benefits for rehabilitation, if necessary. According to the Theory of Constraints Institute, the “guideposts for driving on-going improvement are:”

  • Identifying a system’s constraint
  • Exploiting the constraint(s)
  • Subordinating everything to the constraint(s)
  • Elevating the constraint(s)
  • Preventing inertia from becoming the constraint(s)

Workplace Organization (5S)

Workplace Organization lies at the heart of a productive facility. Focused on continuous improvement and waste reduction, 5S practices are often the genesis of in-house improvement efforts aimed at increased efficiency. “A place for everything, and everything in its place,” 5S practices are often the initial steps we can take toward creating more concentrated lean manufacturing and design efforts.

There are 5 phases of Workplace Organization:

  • Seiri – Sort, Classify; remove obstacles
  • Seiton – Set in Order; Systematic Arrangement
  • Seisou – Shine; Keep workplace safe and clean
  • Seiketsu – Maintain the highest standards; orderliness
  • Shitsuke – “Do without being told;” Training and discipline

Building upon these critical steps, we produce efficient workplaces where obstacles can be immediately observed, assessed, and remedied. Workplace Organization should never be outsourced, but always implemented by those who will work daily within the space in question. This builds upon the core principles of 5S, such as discipline and attentiveness.

Continuous Improvement

A culture of commitment, trust, and engagement creates an ecosystem of proactivity. Continuous Improvement philosophy centers on community, focusing on the success of the organizational team. Also known as “Kaizen,” Continuous Improvement sees teams working together to solve problems to achieve maximum improvement of manufacturing systems.

Specifically concerned with reducing process waste in both time and capital, Continuous Improvement procedures have several steps:

  • Statement of the desired results; data to be derived from inspection of current processes
  • Collection of cross-functional team members able to inspect issues from multiple points of view; the capability to understand solutions from each area of possible impact within the workplace, such as assembly, production, order-filling, etc. 
  • A review of the current issue, the problems it presents, and the actionable solution points required
  • Resource acquisition; gauge measurements against requirements
  • Innovate on findings; increase productivity and standardize any new activities
  • Present findings; implement modified methodologies; continue research and action cycle

By using the process of Continuous Improvement, we can pinpoint issues not easily observable through data reports and presentations. Minute improvements aligned with company-wide standardizations yield large dividends in long-term productivity improvement

Make sure to check back next week for the final four essential lean manufacturing and design tools that will help you mitigate waste and maximize your manufacturing process.


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