5 Steps to a Successful Lean Manufacturing


Lean manufacturing is a systematic method for waste minimization within a manufacturing system. Lean manufacturing aims at adding value, by reducing non value-added activities. In this article, I will summarize the key actions necessary for a successful manufacturing startup. 

Step 1- Implement the 5 lean principles

Lean manufacturing is based on the following 5 principles:

  • Principle (1)- Understanding Customer Value: Value must be externally focused. Only what your customers perceive as value is important.
  • Principle (2)- Value Stream Analysis: Analyzing the steps in your business processes to determine which ones actually add value to customers.
  • Principle (3)- Flow: Instead of moving the product from one work center to the next in large batches, production should flow continuously from raw materials to finished goods in dedicated production cells.
  • Principle (4)- Pull: Rather than building goods to stock, customer demand pulls finished goods through the system.
  • Principle (5)- Perfection: As you eliminate waste from your processes and flow product continuously according to the demands of your customers, you will realize that there is no end to reducing time, cost, space, mistakes, and effort.

Lean methodology exists to achieve the following key objectives:

  • Eliminate wastes
  • Reduce lead time
  • Reduce cost
  • Increase quality
  • Reduced work-in process and inventory
  • Increased inventory turns
  • increased capacity (productivity)
  • Improved customer satisfaction

Step 2- Focus on reducing wastes

In lean manufacturing, Waste is commonly defined as non-value activity. There are (7) common types of waste as follows:

  • Excess (or early) production: Producing more than the customer demands, or producing it earlier than the customer needs it. This ties up valuable labor and material resources that might otherwise be used to respond to customer demand.
  • Delays: Waiting for materials, tools, information, equipment, etc. This may be a result of poor planning, late supplier deliveries, lack of communication, over booking of equipment, or erratic demand.
  • Transportation (to/from processes): Moving material more often than necessary. Material should be delivered and stored at its point of use. Why receive material at a receiving dock, move it to an inventory location, and then move it to the production floor when it can be delivered and stored where it is used?
  • Inventory: Storing more material than is needed. This wastes valuable space and cash. By reducing inventory, plans for warehouse expansion can usually be postponed or canceled.
  • Processing: Doing more work on a part than is necessary, including inspection and reworking. This wastes time and money. Quality must be built into the manufacturing process so that parts are produced correctly the first time.
  • Defects: Defective parts. Defects consume considerable resources. In addition to the original materials and labor used to manufacture the part, extra labor and machine time are required to fix the defective part. If the defective part is sold to a customer, not only will unnecessary shipping costs be lost, but more resources will be consumed to resolve the eventual complaints.
  • Movement: Excess motion of employees in getting tools, picking parts, or moving from one point to another. This is usually the result of poorly planned work layout and workflow.

Step 3- Use the right tools to eliminate wastes & cost and support quality

lean is the set of “tools” that assist in the identification and steady elimination of waste. As waste is eliminated, quality improves while production time and cost are reduced. Lean tools would include:

  • Value Stream Mapping: Lean manufacturing processes, including product development,  will be scheduled and made based on the requirements imposed by the customers and on which customers are willingness to pay.
  • Scan: You scan all logistics, production, delivery, resources, policies, procedures, …etc for depicting areas for improvement.Standardization: You work according to written system and make it repetitive processes.
  • Five S: Spot: You only keep the materials and resources required for producing and delivering a batch. Simplify: You get the most simplified process, smallest batch possible, lowest production lead time, lowest cost of production. Sustain: You plan and conduct audit to ensure reduction of waste, time, cost and highest quality; training and development, increase participation and independency.
  • Kanban (pull systems): is a scheduling system for lean manufacturing and just In Time manufacturing. Lean enterprise processes ( supplies, inventory, production, delivery, administration,…) are scheduled and done to satisfy the needs of customers and with lowest inventory level possible.
  • poka-yoke (error-proofing): is any mechanism in a lean manufacturing process that helps an equipment operator avoid (yokeru) mistakes (poka). Its purpose is to eliminate product defects by preventing, correcting, or drawing attention to human errors as they occur.
  • Total productive maintenance: is a system of maintaining and improving the integrity of production and quality systems through the machines, equipment, processes, and employees that add business value to an organization.
  • Elimination of time batching: Reduce the time required to make and deliver a batch. 
  • Rank order clustering: machine performance data (such as cycle time, OEE and KPI’s) and part information (such as volume) could be normalized and used as weights for machines and parts.
  • Single point scheduling: is the process of arranging, controlling and optimizing work and workloads in a production process or manufacturing process. The purpose of scheduling is to minimize the production time and costs, by telling a production facility when to make, with which staff, and on which equipment. Production scheduling aims to maximize the efficiency of the operation and reduce costs.
  • Redesigning working cells: it the process of designing the layout of work cell, the production flow, resources and work steps and instructions.
  • Multi-process handling and control charts (for checking mura)
  • Gemba: a Japanese terminology means go to the workplace and collect facts.
  • Socio-technical system: ( people-skills and motivation and technology machines, tools, layout and information)
  • The Double Diamond (design thinking): It is a concept that is built in two section of processes which are Design System (consists of: discover, define & design) and Make Serve System (consist of : develop & deliver).
  • Kaizen: Continuous improvement and managing change.
  • Quality tools: for planning (quality metrics, quality checklist), checking, auditing (quality assurance and control)  and continual improvement.
  • Gemba: collect facts from the workplace. Seek information to understand challenges and build a plan for improvement.
  • Improvement cycle: PDCA (plan, do, check and act). DMAIC (Define, measure, analyze, improve and control). 8D Cycle (from a team, contain the symptom, describe the problem, find the root causes, verify the root causes & select the corrective action, implement corrective action, preventive action & make a solution standard and celebrate.
  • Root causes problem solving
  • 5 Whys
  • Business Model- Canvas : 9 blocks how to plan, develop and deliver a value.
  • Visual management ( visual where, how, when, what & who). Visual can be for the: Speed (no waste of time, you will need to look for information);Clear schedule; Involvement ( define who does what); Team working good works; Standardization; responsive ( maintenance and quality assurance).
  • Standard work: Standard work aims at creating processes and procedures that are repetitive, reliable and capable.
  • Supply chain management: tools to manage supply chain and ensure compliance with the lean manufacturing plans.
  • Lean accounting: aims at to minimise the number of transactions and to increase the efficiency of the process.
  • Lean measurements: aims at quantifying progress and achievements for the waste reduction, costing, quality, production, delivery, customer satisfaction,…

Step 4- Learn from the Toyota Way

Toyota key principles:

  • Challenge: Improve the flow and quality of products.
  • Kaizen: continuous improvement and managing change.
  • Gemba: go to the workplace and collect facts.
  • Respect: understand and accept other responsibility and to build a mutual trust.
  • Teamwork: share and maximize individual and team performance.

The house of lean:

  • Policy development
  • Just In Time
  • Jidoka (flow & quality)
  • Tools: 5S, visual management, 7 quality tools, standard operating procedures, Gemba. 
  • Focus is on improving the “flow” or smoothness of work and not upon ‘waste reduction’ . Techniques to improve flow include production leveling, “pull” production (by means of kanban) and the Heijunka boxToyota approach would say that the smooth flowing delivery of value achieves all the other improvements as side-effects. If production flows perfectly (meaning it is both “pull” and with no interruptions) then there is no inventory; if customer valued features are the only ones produced, then product design is simplified and effort is only expended on features the customer values.
  • The other pillars are those related to Human/Technology, whereby automation is achieved with a human touch. In this instance, the “human touch” means to automate so that the machines/systems are designed to aid humans in focusing on what the humans do best. This means respecting, capacity building and increasing participation rate of humans at the process of lean enterprise.
  • Lastly, Lean aims to enhance productivity by simplifying the operational structure enough to understand, perform and manage the work environment.

Step 5- Practice lean manufacturing

  • Customer: seeking to maximize value to the customer.
  • Purpose: reduce the waste & complexity and set measures to control progress and results)
  • Simplicity: simplicity in operation, system technology, control and the goal.
  • Waste: eliminate and prevent wastes.
  • Process: improve processes to better meet customer needs and values.
  • Visuality: make all operations as visible and transparent as possible.
  • Regularity: repetitive with no surprised operations. 
  • Flow: keep it moving at the customer rate. 
  • Evenness: make levels even for supplies, making and customers.
  • Pull: do the work as per the customer’s rate and with no overproduction or early production. 
  • Postponement: avoid overproduction to reduce waste and risk. 
  • Prevention: seek to prevent wastes, risk, problems, delay,..
  • Time: reduce overall to make and deliver to customer.
  • Improvement: continuous improvement. 
  • Partnership: seek partnership with supply chains. 
  • Value networks: cost, quality and delivery. 
  • Gemba: seek facts from the workplace. 
  • Questioning and listening 
  • Variation: as low as possible for the variation around the target quality and requirements.
  • Avoiding overload: overload of resources will lead to inefficient people and long work queueing. 
  • Participation: full information sharing and team working.
  • Thinking small: specify the smallest capable machine and then build capacity in increments. 
  • Trust: trust on system, processes, people, suppliers,..
  • Knowledge: skills and sharing information. 
  • Humility and respect: recognition of skills of other people, listening, sharing and not to humiliate other dignity.


Written by: Munther Al Dawood

Enterprise Development Services



Inspired by the book: Bicheno, J. & Holweg, M. 2016. The Lean Toolbox.


Categories entrepreneurship, lean manufacturing, lean thinkingTags , , , ,

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