Updated April 26, 2023
Lean Manufacturing Tools and Techniques – As companies and manufacturing units upgrade to newer and more efficient practices, it becomes evident that there is a great need for manufacturing tools and techniques to improve this situation. Manufacturing is gaining momentum as the world market progresses each day. With newer businesses making the cut and the demand within global markets increasing, companies must put their best foot forward to meet ever-increasing needs and demands.
A rise in demand would require production or manufacturing to rise. It would mean keeping the same high level of quality, with reduced wastage and shorter periods, without cost inflation. To maintain strong control over all these factors and elements, it is necessary to know about concepts and approaches used worldwide to make production/manufacturing run in the most efficient manner. And this is exactly what we will look through in this article, considering one of the most sought-after systems in the project management paradigm—Lean Manufacturing.
What is Lean Manufacturing?
Often referred to as just “Lean,” Lean Manufacturing is essentially a method used to eliminate waste (or Muda) along the value stream of a particular manufacturing workflow. Lean Manufacturing aims to bring in an even distribution of work, compensating the time for work and ensuring that production doesn’t waste any of the main business factors of quality, time, cost, and resources. A peculiar feature of Lean Manufacturing is the fact that it takes into account the overburdening of resources and also the unevenness of the workload through the value stream.
Lean Manufacturing focuses on the value stream and ensures that each value adding component or process leads to the forefront. Those that don’t add any value to the workflow flow are removed from the workflow; hence, the term “Lean”.
Devised by Toyota Production System, Lean Manufacturing aims to enhance the overall customer experience and focuses on reducing or eliminating the 7 types of waste. These wastes are as follows: (TIMWOOD)
6 Lean Manufacturing Tools and Techniques
Now that you are updated with the best way to enhance your manufacturing and production process, it becomes essential to know the different tools and techniques used within Lean Manufacturing, how to use them, and where to use them. So, let’s dive into the 6 most-used, basic, yet effective tools and techniques you need to know.
Within the paradigm of Lean Manufacturing, 5S is a simple yet powerful Japanese tool to systematically organize a workplace, keeping it clean and safe. This organizing enhances your productivity and work standardization efforts and helps visual management.
5S ensures that a manufacturing or production unit experiences standardization throughout its workflow at all levels of the process. This way, iterations can take place at a higher speed, thus, promoting higher levels of production. With standard operational practices in tow, it becomes easier for work to proceed efficiently, safely, and repeatably.
For an organization implementing 5S, this tool became the foundation for all the other Lean Manufacturing tools to use and organize effectively. The 5S tool works methodically in 5 phases. These 5 phases are termed in Japanese and are transliterated in English to form 5 “S” terms. They are as follows:
- 5S Seiri – or, Sort, is the first step of the 5S and involves sorting all the mess and clutter within the workplace while keeping only the important and extremely useful items within the work area.
- 5S Seiton – or, Straighten, is the next step that dictates the process of arranging the decluttered items efficiently to be used using the principles of ergonomics. This step ensures that every item has its place and those items return to their place.
- 5S Seiso – or Sweep, is the step that involves a thorough cleaning of the work area, the tools to use, and all the systems, machines, and equipment to use in the manufacturing unit of the company. It will ensure that all the apparatus used during production and assembly are as good as new to eliminate any non-conformity that may arise due to technical difficulties.
- Standardization is a key component within Lean Manufacturing. 5S Seiketsu – or, Standardize, ensures that whatever work was conducted in the first 3 steps is now standardized accordingly. Which builds in the common standards and how we must work among the team. Thus, this becomes a crucial phase.
- 5S Shitsuke – or, Sustain, is the final stage that ensures that the company keeps up to the standards adhered to and conformed to. This stage involves housekeeping and auditing the processes, tools, and equipment. It is during this stage that the work routine becomes a culture.
2. Cellular Manufacturing
Going to the basics of this technique, we need to understand what a cell is. The concept of cellular manufacturing increases the different mix of products in a single manufacturing unit while dealing with minimum waste. A cell can consist of work areas/workstations and equipment arranged suitably to facilitate the smooth operation of the workflow. It would mean the smooth processing of the materials and elements through a process. This cell even boasts of trained operators qualified to work within it.
Cellular manufacturing depends on the arrangement of all the components within a work area in production and can lead to great advantages when implemented correctly. A principle within cellular manufacturing is that of one-piece flow. This concept ensures that the product moves through the production process one unit at a time without any vague or sudden interruptions.
Even the pace at which to set the process would be defined and slated according to the customer’s needs and demand rate.
Cellular manufacturing addresses the issue of catering to the multiple product lines required by customers. This technique groups similar products together to process them in the same sequence and on the same equipment. It reduces the time lost in the changeover between the different products and offers the production line smaller, containable units of products. Cellular manufacturing also ensures that space is effectively utilized in all production instances. Apart from these, cellular manufacturing also contributes to reducing the lead time and improving the productivity of the production line. With a lot of clarity, this technique, within Lean Manufacturing, also enhances flexibility and transparency between different product lines and enhances teamwork and communication between various departments.
3. Continuous Improvement
Staying true to its name, Continuous Improvement is a methodology within Lean Manufacturing that advocates following formal practices or an informal set of rules and guidelines. More than a methodology, the attitude of constantly wanting to improve is what is influenced by this tool. Continuous Improvement, often known as Rapid Improvement, helps streamline all the workflows deployed within the production environment. This promotes efficient workflows, and efficient workflows help in saving time, cost, and resources. Each task is continuously undertaken to improve with time, and each resource working towards improving services, products, or processes is properly trained and fine-tuned for use. Thus, this fulfills the main concept behind Lean Manufacturing.
Continuous Improvement follows the proceeding quality cycle, called the Deming Cycle, or PDCA cycle, which comprises 4 phases the product or process must go through. They are as follows:
- Plan -During this stage, a change opportunity occurs, and planning occurs to implement the change within the system.
- Do – Once the planning is completed and verified, the plan is executed to implement the change within the system.
- Check – In this stage, and data is collected and viewed to check the success of the implemented change. The team analyzes the results to determine the success of the change brought about.
- Act – Once the change is determined to be successful, the plan is implemented on a much wider scale, and continuous assessment takes place. Again, the check stage follows after large-scale implementation.
In Japanese, the coined-in term “Jidoka” can be defined as “automation with human intervention”. This term gained importance during the 19th century when Sakichi started to operate the autonomous, self-powered loom Toyoda, founder of the Toyota group of companies. This mechanical loom would stop if it detected a break in the thread during the looming process. The operator handling the loom would then intervene and fix the line before resuming the function.
This would mean that the production process would temporarily halt until the breakage fixes upon every detection.
This way, 100% quality was ensured to customers as no defective product was even produced. Also, it took only a single operator to handle this entire operation which was essentially cost-effective—an improvement in the productivity of the process. In short, the process puts into effect all the principles and philosophies of Lean Manufacturing, and the process looks something like this:
The system detects abnormality and communicates this to the main system
↳ Detection of deviation from the normal workflow
↳ Production halts
↳ The operator/supervisor/manager checks for the issue and resolves the problem
↳ All changes made are incorporated to reflect in the standard workflow
This way, you can feed in all the defects and abnormalities. When a workflow deviates from this standardized flow, the system can immediately notify you to rectify and provide the next anomaly.
5. Total Productive Maintenance
Machine downtime is a serious concern on a production line and can cause detrimental issues if the problem isn’t resolved on time. Lean Manufacturing addresses the concern of machine and equipment reliability on the manufacturing line with the help of the tool Total Productive Maintenance. Setting up a Total Productive Maintenance program is necessary for a Lean Manufacturing environment.
The Total Productive Maintenance program comprises 3 components, which boost the working of the production/manufacturing line. They are as follows:
- Preventive Maintenance –
These are regular planned and executed maintenance activities, not mere random checks conducted by the workers. The crew performs periodic and complete equipment maintenance on all the machines to check for any anomalies in the functioning, as expected. This will ensure that sudden breakdowns do not occur and the throughput for each piece of equipment increases.
- Corrective Maintenance – This kind of maintenance revolves around deciding whether there is a need for fixing or purchasing new equipment altogether. It makes sense to examine and completely replace some machines that experience frequent breakdowns to avoid further loss of money, resources, or even quality.
- Maintenance Prevention – This component ensures that the machines purchased are right. A device that is hard to maintain will only cause more trouble and a loss of investment for the organization. Workers will find it difficult to hold it continuously, resulting in serious loss.
6. Total Quality Management
An important Lean Manufacturing technique, Total Quality Management is a continuous quality program aimed at bringing about teamwork among departments to come together and ensure a self-reliant workflow, outputting optimum quality of products. TQM deals with participative management and focuses on the customer needs and demands, aligning the production process and timelines. Total Quality Management looks at the following key components as part of its technique definition:
- Employee involvement and training
- Problem-solving teams
- Statistical methods
- Process and not people
- Focus on long-term goals
- The needs of the customers define quality.
- Direct participation of the top management is essential to bring about change and increase steps taken toward quality
- The quality increment is a continuous effort and one that needs to be continued as a long-term plan
- Improvement in the work process and the maintenance of the production line
- Systematic analysis after requirement gathering is essential
- Requirement gathering should take place with each department involved and all the employees within that department
These tools and techniques offer a complete and wholesome Lean Manufacturing system. While 5S and Continuous Improvement, along with other devices, such as Kaizen, promote the foundation of Lean Manufacturing, Jidoka and tools such as JIT (Just-In-Time) are the pillars of Lean Manufacturing, providing the necessary support to the qualitative structure that it promotes.
Cellular Manufacturing comes across as a solid methodology within the Lean Manufacturing world. It offers a great tool for the production line to reduce time and cost and effectively utilize resources and space. Lastly, TQM ensures that machines and processes increase their throughput while addressing quality.
Lean Manufacturing is an important way of management within the production/manufacturing world whose concepts have slowly and steadily entered the world of business and have proved beneficial in all strata of these businesses. Using Lean Manufacturing is all about understanding the concepts behind these tools and techniques. Once you’re familiar with these concepts, implementation can be based on your work culture and production style, as Lean Manufacturing has succeeded in all different sectors and forms of business.