Lean Manufacturing is conceived as a philosophy and systematic approach to identifying and eliminating waste through kaizen (“good or beneficial change” as a literal translation from Japanese). The key concept is the flowing of the product using a pull system from the customer demand.
Lean Manufacturing is a performance-based process used mainly in industrial organizations to increase competitive advantage by the cost reductions, boost of machine and workforce productivity and eliminating waste.
The basics philosophy of Lean Manufacturing use transversal continuous improvement processes to focus the objective on the elimination of waste and non added value processes within a company. The biggest and most difficult challenge is to create a culture that is sustained on a long-term basis and commitment from the Top Management and through the whole workforce.
Lean Manufacturing needs two pillars to be sustained; a) a philosophy which is delivered through the company’s culture and b) Lean Manufacturing techniques that complement the previous philosophy by using problem-solving tools or others.
The principles which Lean Manufacturing is sustained on are:
- Added value: That feature to which the client is willing to pay for.
- Value Stream: The mapping of all the actions needed to eliminate the non-added value processes or operations from the product/service design concept to the customer usage.
- Process Flow: The elimination of all process’ downtimes to make the flow without any interruption.
- Pull system: Streamlining the products and processes from its concept to the customer usage.
- Quality at the first time and perfection: The ability of creating products and services with no defects at the first time through the application of continuous improvement techniques.
- Solid Leadership: there is a must about that philosophy and principle have to come and be believed from the Top Management and communicated and interiorised by the whole company. This leadership has to:
- Communicate the vision clearly.
- Model the behaviour of Lean Manufacturing.
- Set the standards (quality, operations, HSE, purchasing, supplier’s relationship, client’s relationship).
- Assisting the workforce within the change management that a company suffers anytime Lean is implemented.
- Inspire trust and commitment by giving responsibilities without an extensive control.
- Coaching of the workforce.
- Assessment and development of the workforce.
- Challenging constantly the current situation.
- Team-player culture: it was argued in the Principle #10 of Toyota Way that a team culture is also a must as the sum of the individuals’ competencies per se is lower than the team competencies. A team player culture needs:
- Empowering each member of the team by focusing on challenging KPIs (Key Process Indicators) or new projects.
- Promoting responsibility for work and ownership.
- Professional continuous development of the workforce steered by middle management and HR departments.
- Integrate diversity and see it as an added-value as it is.
- Internal and external communication systems: communication is basic in order to transfer and receive feedback. Let us say that without it, Lean would not be effective at all. Creating a standard communication system will allow the company from the bottom to the top to be informed about the operations’ situation and,therefore, be able to react, predict and prevent in any case. A communication system needs:
- Standardisation of meetings (time, attendants and frequency), involving the whole company.
- Encouraging the active participation of all the members.
- Promote improvements within the meetings which have to be solved rapidly.
- Drive the behaviours of all the team members towards the desired culture (respect, safety and proactivity).
- Speak about the importance of safety and customer obsession.
- Implement formal communication but allowing informal one to be undertaken.