Lean Manufacturing Best Practices Help Save You Money

Developing lean inner-work practices has been the recent mindset of many industries, especially manufacturing. The concept “lean” stems from an organization’s desire to optimize workflow and eliminate unnecessary waste.

Companies across the world are reaping the benefits of standardizing their processes and procedures to minimize common mistakes and improve the overall value of the company.

Safety also plays a primary role in a company’s lean process. By incorporating safety into the lean manufacturing process, companies can improve their efficiency, workplace safety and employee buy-in of lean initiatives.

Understand the Benefits of Lean Manufacturing

In addition to eliminating waste, improving efficiency and increasing workplace safety, lean manufacturing also strives to produce products that are:

  • Simply made with few resources
  • Quick and on-time
  • Competitively priced
  • Better than competitors
  • Free of waste

The lean philosophy emphasizes crafting more value for customers by using fewer resources through an optimized workflow. Your outcome will be a more organized operation where your employees have access to the tools they need — and therefore, are more empowered to deliver quality service.

What does this mean for you? Your company will experience a more efficient process and workflow, which in turn, will produce profitable results.

Now that you know how advantageous lean manufacturing can be for your company, it’s time to be proactive. Lean isn’t a one-time project, and you’ll find there’s always room for improvement — more procedure refining, more ways to reduce waste and more ways to improve the return on your lean investments.

As with any new project, it’s crucial to establish initial goals for your lean transition, but keep in mind your goals don’t necessarily need to have an end point. Rather, this is a pledge to continual improvement.

Here are some of the key best practices to include in your lean manufacturing initiative.

Establish a Shared Vision

With any major company change, it’s of utmost importance to have all employees onboard, which can often be overlooked in the lean initiative process. It isn’t uncommon for your employees to be actively involved with a variety of internal and external programs such as family life, education or certification training so that they might view your new lean initiative as an inconvenience.

Adding a focus on safety into your approach may provide more value to the program in the eyes of your employees. Lean operations are critical to the jobs of employees. Improving safety and efficiency in their daily routines are essential to promoting a shared vision, achieving uniform goals and leading to the success of the program.

To get your employees on board and involved, here are some questions you should ask to understand necessary improvement areas:

  1. What additional procedures could be developed to meet employee needs and eliminate hazards?
  2. What are the types of hazards your employees encounter on a daily basis?
  3. What would make employees feel more valued and vested into the lean program?

Restructure a Sales Plan and Focus on Customer Service

It should come as no surprise that customer service needs to be at the heart of every successful organization, and with the addition of lean efforts, companies should not only strive to remove unnecessary waste from their customer-facing process but simultaneously deliver improved customer service. It’s quite simple, remove the waste from the customer service process, and you’ll improve delays, mistakes, inconveniences and reduce your overall costs.

So what can you do? Adjust scheduling, staffing and resources to match the schedule and wishes of your customers. After all, you can’t expect to provide excellent customer service if you do it on your own schedule, and only in ways that improve your own efficiency and goals, while ignoring those of your customer. By taking on a lean mindset, you’ll be speeding up service response times by removing wasted time your staff spends standing around doing nothing with no one to serve.

Properly Implement Lean Manufacturing in Your Company

Implementing lean process improvement has the potential to quickly become involved, detailed and a little overwhelming if you aren’t going about the process appropriately. It’s a good idea to have a proper lean program in the first place, and a vision of where you want your organization to be. The plan should be broken down into defined steps. Clearly defined performance targets should be set and monitored.

  • Focus on Your Customers: Your customers want value. Value creation occurs when the quality of services received is perceived as much higher compared to the cost. You know what your customers want. Now how can you provide it faster, better and cheaper?
  • Determine How Work Is Getting Done: As the manager or a principle in the company, you may have a lot of assumptions about how work is getting done. However, these assumptions might not actually mirror what is actually happening. It’s important to notate the steps in the process in an easy, laid out format so they could easily be repeated alone if need be. Try bringing in an observer to record the steps in the process.
  • Remove Waste and Inefficiencies: Once you become familiar with the workflow of your process, it’s time to determine how it’s directly creating value for your customers. If it isn’t, take a second look. Manage, improve and smooth the process to eliminate non-value-added activity time. Consider packaging and storage methods as well and choose materials that cost less and can save space. Examples of this could be wasted time and movement, excess inventory due to overproduction, customer delays, work batching delays, duplication of work and waiting around for approvals. Using bulky shipping methods can also waste valuable space in the factory or plant which can add additional expenses.
  • Empower Your Employees: The best people to improve your process are the people carrying out the process. You should be utilizing the full skill sets of your employees and determining if anyone could be giving more effort.
  • Track Numbers: Sometimes, what you think will work well, doesn’t. Test your process, collect data, highlight and eliminate errors and seek continuous improvement in value.

You should consider holding regular meetings with employees to follow-up the implementation of specific projects. Managers must seek to integrate lean principles into everyday business, rather than run it as a separate, temporary project on the side of operations.


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Megan Ray Nichols

Megan Nichols is a huge fan of all things nerdy, geeky and unusual. She is a writer with a love affair with the sciences, and has channeled that passion into writing, which you can read more about at her blog Schooled by Science.