Slim Down with Lean Manufacturing 101

A corporation is a living organism; it has to continue to shed its skin. Methods have to change. Focus has to change. Values have to change. The sum total of those changes is transformation.” – Andrew Grove, former CEO, Intel

What is Lean Manufacturing?

First, the textbook definition: “lean” is a consumer-oriented methodology that utilizes continuous improvement to help a company through waste elimination, changes in work culture, and engaging people in different processes.

Put more simply, lean manufacturing encourages taking a holistic look at an entire process and finding ways to improve it.

Some of the fundamental truths of Lean manufacturing, (which have stolen the spotlight in recent decades) emphasize efficiency, high quality, and positive attitudes through changing several parts of the business.

The modern concept of Lean has roots in ideas by American icon Henry Ford, who popularized the idea of eliminating waste through flow production and the moving assembly line. However, when Ford fell into the trap of not being able to provide variety without sacrificing innovation, Toyota founder Kiichiro Toyoda focused his attention on the product’s process from start to finish. By sizing machines according to volume and having each process notify its predecessor of need for materials, the company was able to achieve high variety and high quality with low production costs and quick turnaround times – a concept that changed the world as it spread through industrialized nations.

Key principles of Lean manufacturing include:

Elimination of Waste – To eliminate waste, managers and C-level executives must review all facets of their company and determine where and how unnecessary work affects the business as a whole. Once leadership has identified work that has no added value, operations can be streamlined and processes become more efficient. Different types of “waste” include waiting, overproduction, and unnecessary transportation of goods.

Continuous Improvement – Also known as “kaizen,” the idea of continuous improvement – constant change toward achievement of a desired state – forms a strong foundation for Lean implementation. Change and innovation are key components of this idea, as both are necessary for growth and lend themselves toward improvement.

Respect for Humanity – Lean manufacturing has proven itself unique because of its emphasis on people. Manufacturing not only deals with demands in the eyes of the average consumer, but also the workforce that is producing goods for the customer. Businesses that adopt a “respect for humanity” ideology often boast high morale because the employees find worth in their work, which strengthens the business as a whole and promotes trust between support and leadership.

Levelized Production – On the logistics side of things, Lean manufacturing also promotes the idea of a consistent workload. Some manufacturers wait until they receive orders before they begin any aspect of production, which can lead to slow turnaround times and customer dissatisfaction. However, levelized production methods call for an equal amount of work every day regardless of demand, which leads to more efficiency and better organization.

There are several additional Lean principles that should be taken into account when exploring implementation; however, these are among the most crucial in forming a basis for change and innovation that can wholly benefit your company.

Want to know more about Lean manufacturing? Call Linda Barita at 216.391.7766 or email

Posted by Liz Fox in Lean, Operations

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