12 Essential Lean concepts and tools

Contributor:  Patange Vidyut Chandra
Posted:  08/01/2013  12:00:00 AM EDT
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Lean manufacturing includes a set of principles that lean thinkers use to achieve improvements in productivity, quality, and lead-time by eliminating waste through kaizen. Kaizen is a Japanese word that essentially means "change for the better" or "good change." 

The goal is to provide the customer with a defect free product or service when it is needed and in the quantity it is needed.

There are many tools and concepts that lean companies employ to support the above principles and eliminate waste. Here are 12 of the most critical ones for you to know:

#1: Cellular Manufacturing

Cellular manufacturing is an approach in which all equipment and workstations are arranged based on a group of different processes located in close proximity to manufacture a group of similar products. The primary purpose of cellular manufacturing is to reduce cycle time and inventories to meet market response times.

#2: Takt Time

This is the "heartbeat" of the customer. Takt time is the average rate at which a company must produce a product or execute transactions based on the customer's requirements and available working time.

                                                            Takt = T/D    

                                     Where T is Time available for product/service.

                              D is a demand for the number of units

                             T gives information on production pace or units per hours.

#3: Standardized Work

A process of documented description  of methods, materials, tools, and processing times required to meet takt time for any given job. This aids in standardizing the tasks throughout the value stream.

#4: One Piece Flow or Continuous Flow

This concept emphasises reducing the batch size in order to eliminate system constraints. A methodology by which a product or information is produced by moving at a consistent pace from one value-added processing step to the next with no delays in between.

#5: Pull Systems and Kanban

A methodology by which a customer process signals a supplying process to produce a product or information or deliver product/information when it is needed.  Kanban is the signals used within a pull system through scheduling combined with travelling instruction by simple visual devices like cards or containers.

#6: Five Why's

A thought process by which the question "why" is asked repeatedly to get to the root cause of a problem.

#7: Quick Changeover / SMED

A 3-stage methodology developed by Shigeo Shingo that reduces the time to changeover a machine by externalizing and streamlining steps.  Shorter changeover times are used to reduce batch sizes and produce just-in-time. This concept aids in reducing the setup time to improve flexibility and responsiveness to customer changes.

#8: Mistake Proofing / Poka Yoke

A methodology that prevents an operator from making an error by incorporating preventive in-built responsiveness within the design of product or production process.

#9: Heijunka / Leveling the Workload

The idea that, although customer order patterns may be quite variable, all of our processes should build consistent quantities of work over time (day to day, hour to hour).

This strategy is adopted by intelligently planning different product mix , and its volumes over period of times.

#10: Total Productive Maintenance (TPM)

A team-based system for improving Overall Equipment Effectiveness (OEE), which includes availability, performance, and quality. This aids in establishing a strategy for creating employee ownership autonomously for maintenance of equipment. The goal of the TPM program is to markedly increase production while at the same time increasing employee morale and job satisfaction.

OEE ( Overall Equipment Efficiency ) :

OEE = A x PE x Q

             A - Availability of the machine.. PE - Performance Efficiency. Q - Refers to quality rate.

#11: Five S

5S is a five step methodology aimed at creating and maintaining an organized visual workplace.

This system aids in organizing , cleaning , developing , and sustaining a productive work  environment.

#12: Problem Solving / PDCA / PDSA

The PDCA cycle is a graphical and logical representation of how most individuals have already solved problems. It helps to think that every activity and job is part of a process, that each stage has a customer and that the improvement cycle will send a superior product or service to the final customer. 

PLAN: establish a plan to achieve a goal 

DO: enact the plan

CHECK: measure and analyze the results

ACT: implement necessary reforms if results are not as expected

A system for identifying and solving problems to their root cause and then implementing counter measures with monitoring.  

Patange Vidyut Chandra Contributor:   Patange Vidyut Chandra


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