If you’re in the manufacturing business, you’ve probably heard about lean manufacturing, but what is it exactly? Most people in the business would say that they have a good idea of what it involves, but the truth is that there are plenty of misconceptions and myths about what’s required to successfully build lean manufacturing strategies. Lean manufacturing is based on lean thinking, which involves an organization making a conscious effort to eliminate waste; also defined as any activity that uses resources without adding value to the customer.
Lean manufacturing often requires a complete culture change. It’s far from a one-time-thing but rather, to be used successfully, should be a philosophy of continuous improvement with a key focus on eliminating waste. Waste comes in a range of forms including overproduction, machine and operator waiting time, physical waste, defective products, poor quality products, too much inventory, or any activities that use up time without adding value to the end result. While lean principles and processes are typically used in manufacturing settings, they can easily be applied in various other industries.
It’s All About Reducing Costs:
While lean manufacturing will definitely make it easier for you to drive costs down without compromising on product quality, cost reduction is certainly not the only thing that it is about. Primarily, lean is all about making the work easier, improving the safety of the workplace, reducing waste, and keeping things straightforward so that your company can more easily focus on investing time, energy, and funds into the things that matter most. Click here to learn more about learning programs focused on safety in lean manufacturing.
It’s Based on Tools:
When you hear about lean principles, the first thing that comes to mind could be related tools and professional development courses such as Kanban, Lean Six Sigma, or The 7 Wastes. However, while all of these tools are great, you won’t get the best results when using them on their own. To have the best effect, any tools and training courses associated with lean need to have a strong structure and company culture associated with them. A strong understanding of these tools is especially important since if they are not operated reliably and correctly, they can interrupt the process and cause significant waste. However, in order to ensure that any lean tools you implement are used to their full potential, a strong framework for lean management is absolutely necessary.
It’s a Constant Thing:
Upon implementing lean principles in your manufacturing process, another common myth is that it’s something you have to constantly think about. However, while lean manufacturing methods do call for frequent iteration and evaluation for you to perfect the process and ensure that it works for you, once the strategies are firmly in place and everybody’s on board, doing so should come much more naturally. For lean to have the best results, it’s important for teams to be committed to making it work and challenging the old way of doing things.
You Don’t Keep Inventory:
While reducing waste with lean manufacturing methods means being careful not to overstock inventory, another myth that you may have heard is that you are not supposed to hold inventory at all. This is untrue; rather, lean manufacturers should consider how they can be smarter about the inventory that they hold at any given time. Lean principles state that you should have the right quantities of the right items in stock, available for as and when you need to use them. Lean thinking is designed to help you reduce your inventory by getting rid of anything that isn’t necessary and being clear on what you need.
It Makes Employees Work Harder:
Learn is centered around reducing waste – not making people work extra hard. In fact, you might find that when using lean principles, the workload is actually reduced for many employees since there is no longer any need for them to waste time taking on wasteful, menial tasks, allowing them to focus their energies on more meaningful tasks instead. Many teams are surprised to learn that lean principles could allow them to double their results without having to work any extra hours.
You Won’t Need New Equipment:
Implementing lean principles in your manufacturing business may sometimes mean that you will need to invest in new equipment, depending on the specific requirements of your company and what is needed to get the job done. Bear in mind that any equipment you need should always be chosen with lean principles in mind; consistency, safety, and reliability should always come first. Investing in high-quality equipment might be a larger expense in the short-term but over time, it can significantly reduce your operating costs and make it easier for you to reduce waste.
Reducing Waste is the Only Thing It’s Good For:
Although reducing waste might be one of the main principles of the lean methodology, this isn’t the only thing that it can be beneficial for. In fact, reducing waste alone can bring about several great benefits for a manufacturing company including cutting costs and addressing the root causes of what has caused unnecessary waste in the past.
It’s a Fad:
Lean may have become a bit of a buzzword in the business and manufacturing industries recently, but it’s certainly not just the latest fad in the industry. In fact, lean has been around for longer than you might realize; the history of these methodologies can be traced all the way back to the 1400s. Within the manufacturing industry, learn concepts were first introduced by Henry Ford decades ago, and the process became popular with car manufacturing companies including Toyota.
While the principles of lean have actually been around for centuries, it’s only recently that modern manufacturing businesses in several industries have begun to take it seriously and implement it in daily operations. But like anything that gains new popularity, there are some myths surrounding lean that might leave some business owners skeptical about making the change. If you’ve heard any of these common myths, you can be assured that’s all they are.