Although some circles highly champion it, others consider lean manufacturing as nothing more than a passing fad. However, the five principles of lean listed below have a real potential to impact nearly any industry or company for the better.
- Specify what creates value from the customers perspective
- Identify all the steps along the process chain
- Make those processes flow
- Make only what is pulled by the customer
- Strive for perfection by continually removing wastes
With common benefits that include enhanced customer value, improved production workflow and even greater profitability, this is more than the latest business trend.
Erasing a Poor Public Image
Critics of lean cite a number of inefficiencies within the framework of the system itself. Moreover, employees tend to become stressed, overburdened and even demotivated from the implementation of new programs, standards and policies.
There are a large number of lean advocates, as well as a variety of success stories to back up their claims that lean is the way to go. With roots that date back decades with Toyota, lean has certainly been useful in some situations.
Affecting Change in the Manufacturing Industry
Despite the negative press, Michigan-based furniture manufacturer Herman Miller was able to boost its overall productivity fourfold by interjecting lean methodology into its workforce. Although its annual revenue suffered during the most recent economic recession, it has since been able to turn operations around.
General Electric has also streamlined operations as a result of a successful lean implementation. According to recent reports, GE was able to reduce the overall amount of time spent on manufacturing individual refrigerator units by four hours. It passed these savings onto the consumer in the way of reduced retail pricing.
Seeing Results in Shipping
Manufacturers aren't the only ones who can utilise lean to their advantage. The sectors of shipping and transportation have discovered the usefulness of waste elimination in packaging, handling and general logistics planning.
One method of waste elimination calls for the use of hot melt instead of packing tape. Because traditional adhesive products use far more material than what is actually necessary, many shipping companies have turned to the adhesive film known as hot melt.
The Aluminum Trailer Co., or ATC, produces heavy-duty trailer rigs for use in commercial shipping and transportation. Its founder, Steve Brenneman, spoke enthusiastically about the changes his company has seen since embracing the principles and standards of the system. His team was even able to cut their required warehouse space in half while simultaneously improving sales cycle times by four weeks.
Enhancing the Customer Experience
One of the most notable benefits of a successful lean implementation is the increase in overall customer satisfaction reported by those who have tapped into the program. With users citing improved quality control, greater visibility and increased product value, it's easy to see how a company that is struggling with public relations can turn its reputation around in a short amount of time.
A representative for Hytol, a long-time manufacturer of industrial conveyor systems, mentioned greater manufacturing efficiency and higher standards of quality when describing its own success with lean.
The principles of lean manufacturing can even be adapted and applied to your company's IT department. Reduced customer response time, controlled data governance and greater efficiency when developing software and utilities are all commonly reported benefits of IT-oriented lean integrations.
A recent poll by LeanKit shows that 92 percent of those surveyed have seen a direct advantage as a result of lean. Just over half of respondents listed enhanced team management and process simplification among the largest and most notable benefits of the system.
Utilising Lean to Its Fullest Potential
Those who aren't able to see the potential in lean are likely misunderstanding or misapplying one or more of its core principles. With a proven track record of success across multiple industries, sectors and businesses, it's difficult to understand how anyone could deny the power of lean manufacturing.