Lean Manufacturing Advantages & Disadvantages that Affect Your Product Design

The systematic approach of Lean manufacturing may not seem like it’s the best option when it comes to product design. After all, the development of a new product is a creative process that requires a certain amount of freedom. However, when Lean manufacturing advantages and disadvantages are viewed through a critical lens, it’s easy to see how it leads to better products overall.

Lean principles can help creators develop better, more cost-effective designs. Lean principles can help creators develop better, more cost-effective designs because the focus is creating value at every phase of the project. Whether the production run is large or small, Lean principles guide the process to ensure the best cost, quality, and on-time delivery are built-in. When looked at that way, it’s easy to say that Lean’s many advantages far outweigh the few disadvantages.” When looked at that way, it’s easy to say that Lean’s many advantages far outweigh the few disadvantages.

The Principles of Lean

Lean manufacturing standards

The creation of Lean manufacturing standards is largely attributed to Henry Ford and the development of the mainstream automobile. By turning the creation of the Model T into a consistent, repeatable process, Ford made manufacturing cost-effective enough to offer the car at an affordable price. The principles that Ford, and all current followers of the Lean manufacturing methods, use can be broken down into five basic components.

This starts by establishing a profile of the ideal customer. Then, the creator must define exactly what the customer wants and needs, to find the overall value of the product. Outlining how your product solves a customer problem in a better way than any other option is crucial and is typically completed through surveys, focus groups, and other customer feedback.

Map the Value Stream

This is the series of events needed to take a product from concept to the customer. By mapping this stream, creators can see where waste occurs and eliminate it. This increases efficiency and reduces the risk of process errors.

Create Flow

Here, a new path to production is established that eliminates delays and interruptions, to ensure progress is continuous and effective. Creating this flow will include retraining employees in new processes, leveling out the workload and taking other measures to ensure production steps run smoothly.

Establish Pull

Pull is extremely similar to Just-in-Time manufacturing, where inventory and work in progress items are limited strictly to what is needed to meet market demand. But with pull, inventory management works backward, in that the manufacturer gauges demand first, then creates products, rather than the other way around.

Pursue Perfection

This step is about continuous process improvement. Lean is never truly done, as the creators and manufacturers are always striving to improve the process and reduce waste. The pursuit of perfection is essentially completing the first four steps in perpetuity.

Lean Manufacturing Advantages and Disadvantages 

Most manufacturers who use Lean swear by it for eliminating waste and improving efficiency. That’s not to say it’s perfect. However, Lean manufacturing advantages generally outweigh the disadvantages.

Advantages Disadvantages
Streamlined design: In the design stage, the Lean focus will be to establish a product with no unnecessary steps or waste. This results in a streamlined design that is easier to implement and bring to market.

Reduced costs: Reduced waste results in lower costs, as time and resources are efficiently allocated.

Increased efficiency: Employees follow the same process which is continually honed to ensure perfection. This reduces wasted employee time and maximizes labor power.

Consistent quality: As the process of creation is standardized, there are no deviations that would result in poor quality products making it off the assembly line.

Long roll out: Starting a Lean program can take a while as the initial process, value streams, and other necessities need to be reviewed and mapped out for the very first time. However, once implemented, a Lean process typically runs faster than a non-Lean one.

Limited flexibility: As it is process-focused, it may seem that Lean limits creativity. However, the steps are designed to allow manufacturers to pivot with some frequency.

It’s ongoing: For those who need to check items off the to-do list, Lean manufacturing may not be ideal. It’s an ongoing process that is never truly complete.

When it comes to Lean manufacturing advantages and disadvantages, the Lean process ensures the best value for the customer. Once an effective program is in place, its many advantages improve product design, manufacturing, and overall end quality. Working with a manufacturing partner who embraces Lean is a surefire way to successfully bring a new product to market.

Pacific Research Laboratories embraces all parts of the Lean manufacturing process so we can work with you to create flawless designs every time and eliminate waste in product creation. For more information, contact us online or call (206) 408-7603.