manufacturingLean manufacturing is the systematic elimination of waste in a process. Also known as lean production or simply “lean”, this approach consists of different practices that aim to eliminate waste, improve the flow of a process and deliver quality products and services in the right amount, at the right time and in the right place in order to guarantee customer satisfaction.

This management philosophy derived mostly from the Toyota Production System (TPS) and it was identified as “lean” in the 1990’s. Even though the term “lean manufacturing” is a relatively new one, the practices and tools associated with this method can be traced back to the beginning of the 20th century. Today, Lean comprises all these industrial and manufacturing practices into a system that can be applied in practically every manufacturing process.

This method focuses on producing only what the customer demands in the amount and time required, and on increasing the efficiency of a process by eliminating these three types of waste that were identified by the TPS as Muda, Mura and Muri.

Muda is the Japanese word for waste. This is broadly defined as anything that represents a cost to the product or service and does not add value to it. Here, muda is commonly referred to as the Seven Forms of Waste that occur in every process.

Mura means inconsistency. Inconsistency occurs because of a lack of standardization. This stands as a problem because it increases the variability of a production process, which can jeopardize the quality or value of  a product or service.

Muri or unreasonableness applies to a variety of manufacturing and management activities where emotions take control. Every problem or issue has a solution that needs to be found. By eliminating muri, an organization can look at problems or potential problems as an opportunity for improvement.

By eliminating these 3Ms, organizations will improve their overall business performance. Lean Manufacturing was developed primarily for manufacturing companies, but today many lean practices and tools are being used by a variety of organizations. The benefits they may expect from becoming lean are:

  • Reduced delivery time.
  • Reduced inventory.
  • Less rework.
  • Reduce cycle time.
  • Increases flexibility and an organization’s capability to adapt to changes.
  • Greater focus on customer requirements.
  • Promotes an organized work environment.
  • Better management.
  • Reduce costs.

More and more managers and leaders are deciding to transform their organizations into lean ones in order to improve their competitiveness, meet the ever more demanding requirements from customers and to guarantee an efficient use of their resources.