For most companies, efficiency is the key to staying competitive on the market. With the market being as competitive as it is today, more businesses are working towards a higher level of efficiency across their operations, with efficiency in manufacturing leading the charge. In fact, the entire manufacturing industry has been shifting towards more efficiency these past several years.
There are multiple approaches to boosting efficiency too, but the one that garnered the attention of many manufacturing companies is lean manufacturing. Also known as lean production, lean manufacturing is an approach that focuses on minimizing waste while maintaining production levels. It is an approach first developed by Toyota, the same company behind the Kanban system.
So, can lean manufacturing really produce the expected results? Is this the right approach for maximum efficiency? In practice, lean manufacturing brings a number of benefits that make the system worth considering. We are going to review those benefits in this article.
Eliminate the Unnecessary
The main goal of lean manufacturing is minimizing waste, including waste of time and valuable resources. As the approach gets implemented, your business can benefit from a more seamless flow.
As part of the implementation process, you need to evaluate the whole manufacturing line in order to identify waste along the workflow. This means identifying tools and equipment that are not essential to the manufacturing process and removing them off the factory floor.
Removing those tools is only the beginning. You also need to take into account the way tools, supplies, and processes are organized. What you want to do is streamline the manufacturing processes so that products can go from one station to the next in a smoother, more efficient way.
Cleanliness is a big part of the process too. Operating a dirty and disorganized factory floor is counterproductive when you are trying to boost efficiency. Everything needs to be in order, properly marked, and well-maintained for your operation to be smooth and seamless.
Improved Lead Time
With no clutter and unnecessary processes holding the manufacturing line back, you’ll start seeing improvement in lead times. Improvement to lead times is a substantial benefit to aim for, because improvement in this department expands the business’s ability to react to market changes.
This is exactly why more engineers who pursue degrees such as the Kettering University Online’s Lean Manufacturing master’s degree are focusing on tools and knowledge that will help them optimize lead times. The Kettering University Online’s Lean Manufacturing program in particular was actually developed in collaboration with General Motors for this purpose.
The small changes made to the processes within the manufacturing line will also increase the quality of the output. That brings us to our next benefit, which is….
Better Use of Resources
When employees and other resources are not allocated for doing mundane, often unnecessary tasks, they can be used for important purposes. One of those purposes is quality control. Lean manufacturing allows businesses to redirect their focus to the things that matter, particularly the quality of their products and the overall efficiency of their manufacturing line.
Employees who are working within their capacity are more likely to spot defects and errors compared to employees who handle too many tasks at the same time. An efficient manufacturing line also doesn’t need to exceed its production capacity to produce more goods while maintaining the highest quality standards.
That brings us back to the primary goal of using the lean manufacturing approach – lower waste. Less waste translates to better sustainability in the long run. When raw materials are processed effectively, the business can keep their waste-related overhead to a minimum.
The same can be said for minimizing waste of valuable resources and time. All of these changes lead to better sustainability, including sustainability in a fierce market. The lack of substantial waste provides businesses more room to adapt to market changes.
There is an interesting side effect to minimizing waste in a production line: higher employee satisfaction. Employees who are working within their capacities and following a streamlined workflow are happier. When the employees are happy, they are less likely to make mistakes.
It is a cycle that will continue to strengthen the business’s manufacturing process exponentially. All of these benefits eventually lead to the biggest advantage of them all.
Higher Operational Profit
Less waste and minimized overhead costs, combined with higher – and better – production of goods are exactly the benefits you need to maximize your bottom line. These may seem like small changes individually, but the impact they produce together is substantial enough for the business and its future.
An improved bottom line provides the business with more resources to allocate, which means there are more expansion opportunities that the business can seize in the future. The same lean manufacturing principles will continue to guide the business while it is expanding, allowing for the benefits to be amplified further.
Even better, the implementation of lean manufacturing is not limited by the conventional manufacturing workflow. The same set of principles can be used to improve automation across a business, employee hiring and training processes, and even the use of the Kanban system to monitor inventory and other processes within the company.
Should You Consider Lean Manufacturing?
As mentioned before, lean manufacturing delivers benefits that are good for most businesses. While implementing lean manufacturing principles is challenging on its own – especially when you consider the changes that you need to make along the way – it is still a concept worth considering if you are looking for ways to boost your business’s competitiveness on the market.
A good way to see if lean manufacturing is a good fit for your company is by doing simulations. Conduct the initial review but work out the solutions to reduce waste across your processes in simulation rather than directly on the factory floor. The results should give you a better idea of whether the system suits your manufacturing line.
After all, reducing waste is always a good thing to do. Lean manufacturing simply provides a more structured way to achieve that goal.