Lean manufacturing is a way to produce goods and materials with an emphasis on value streams and efficiency. Patterned from the Toyota Production System (TPS), this method is credited for the Japanese production surge in the early to mid-1980s. Lean manufacturing is based on five key principles: flow, perfection, pull, value, and value stream. Each of these principles has its unique implementation points that must be in place to work successfully.
The solutions to problems encountered during the transition to lean manufacturing cannot be generalized, as every organization has its own unique set of challenges and operating specifications. There are, however, several important lean manufacturing best practices that can establish a solid production baseline to utilize when fully preparing a product line for lean manufacturing.
#1 Avoid Wasteful Lean Manufacturing Practices
This may seem like an odd best practice to start with, but not when you consider the potential financial losses incurred by wasteful practices in manufacturing. Waste in the manufacturing process can come from the business, marketing, production, and customer-facing areas of business. Here are some of the common areas of waste during all stages of the manufacturing process:
- Inefficient product or material transportation.
- Ineffective quality control standards.
- Production idle time.
- Wasteful use of materials.
The key to achieving an effective and profitable lean manufacturing strategy is to introduce steps that mitigate these risk points before they can occur.
#2 Create Standardized Design and Production Project Flows
Standards exist for a reason. Consistency on how projects are run, where task hand-offs from one team to the other occur, and executing timelines are just a few examples of where standard practices help to keep projects on time and budget. Establishing and following a concise set of product standards, from design and on through distribution, will give you the lean production practices required to become fully aligned with lean manufacturing best practices guidelines.
Examples of standardization in design and production tasks:
✓ Breaking tasks down to be smaller, and better-defined.
Through this you obtain a better understanding of the time it takes to complete a task, allowing you to improve forecasting and eliminate unnecessary steps backed up by precise data.
✓ Review training steps and protocols.
A well-trained production team makes fewer mistakes and executes tasks faster and with improved agility when on-the-go changes must be made.
✓ Continued analysis of project tasks and timelines.
By utilizing real-time data, you can monitor in-flight and pre-production tasks, introducing changes as needed. This is especially effective when your production data is evaluated against established baseline metrics.
Founding a set of agile production standards will align manufacturing expectations to streamlined operational efficiencies.
#3 Streamline Manufacturing Processes
The end-goal for a lean manufacturing strategy is to maximize your output while minimizing the time and effort that goes into building products from the ground up. Having an established set of design and production standards in place will give you the data and monitoring necessary to make decisions. Additionally, providing highly effective changes applicable to slimming down the efforts and requirements of moving a product into long-term production.
There are several focused areas where you can quickly align production to lean manufacturing principles, including:
✓ Improve sustainability by limiting the number of materials and resources required to complete production. This is accomplished by using the same types of materials and resources and serves to reduce material waste and improve quality.
✓ Automate quality control processes where possible.
✓ Continuously review the tasks performed and implement data-backed improvements when trending waste points are identified.
Maximizing the potential of lean manufacturing will require external inputs to get the proper balance of lean performance and quality just right.
#4 Use Data-Drive Performance Metrics to Stay on Track
Establishing a lean manufacturing strategy based on its guidelines and key principles will not be enough without having precision, data-driven metrics in place. Tracking metrics helps you to know exactly where you stand with your manufacturing processes, opening the door to further improvements. These give you the required tools to achieve a continuous cycle of process improvement initiatives and demonstrates to customers your overall commitment to rapid production with a high degree of quality.
#5 Strive to Achieve a Cycle of Continuous Process Improvement
One of the most important fundamentals that can be established to support a lean manufacturing strategy is a culture that encourages process improvements. Striving to seek out new or better ways to accomplish tasks can vary from short-term fixes to long-term policies. Rearranging how tasks are completed, retiring old processes, or replacing them with new, all serve to infuse nimble and productive changes into your lean marketing strategy.
Get the Most Out of Lean Manufacturing Best Practices
Following a set of established lean manufacturing best practices can be simplified by building a strong foundation. Seeking to reduce waste through the establishment of production standards that change with expectations is a great start. Backing this up with concisely crafted metrics will drive accountability and visibility into all areas of production, helping you to stay lean during project execution and into long-term production.
Several immediate steps should be taken to better align your lean manufacturing processes to business and customer deliverables. In addition to these best practices are several situation-specific options that can best be addressed by adding a knowledgeable manufacturing consulting team to your operation.
PRL is a full-service product development company that specializes in all aspects of production, from design to product fabrication and prototyping. Our experts are here to guide you through the full product development process, including the ideation, design, creation, and management of your product idea.